Established by the monks near Kirkby, this is still a working farm. The boundary wall is extant with an unusually large number of Bee boles into which were placed skeps for bees.
Martin Luther (1483 - 1546)
Martin Luther was a German Christian church reformer and the founder of Protestantism. Born at Eisleben in 1483, he was the son of a miner.  After completing his studies at Erfurt University, he spent three years as an Augustinian friar later being ordained a priest. In 1517 after a visit to Rome he gained nation-wide publicity for denouncing Johann Tetzel, a Dominican monk (1455 - 1519); one of those sent by Pope Julius 11 to sell indulgences, a fund raising effort to help in the rebuilding of St. Peter's Basilica, Rome.  

On October 31st 1517 Luther nailed his 95 theses on the sale of indulgences, on the door of Wittenburg Church. The pope summoned him to appear before the Diet (Assembly) of Worms and he was put under the ban of the Empire. He married a former nun, Katharine von Bora. German literature owes Martin Luther a great debt for his translation of the Bible.  
At Augsburg, the seat of the famous Diets, the Augsburg Confession was stated. This was a declaration of faith by Martin Luther and others and the culmination of the German Reformation.  This Protestant leader, originally condemned by Communism had by the 1980s been reinstated as a revolutionary socialist hero and East and West Germany claimed him as their patron saint.

Masons were stone setters or layers and were itinerant workers.  Talented stonecutters used their specialised skills to carve corbels, gargoyles, statues and vaulted roofs. .

This was the most important service of a monk's day. The priest said Mass in Latin. At the Consecration, Catholics believed, and still believe, that the bread and wine are changed into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ; the mystery of transubstantiation. "The Sacrifice of the New Law in which the Sacrifice of Calvary is represented and renewed in an unbloody manner, the Divine Victim offering Himself under the appearances of bread and wine as He did at the Last Supper, when He instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice and celebrated the first Mass"  (Catholic Dictionary).

The first Mass since the Reformation was held in the Abbey Park as it was considered to be unsafe in the abbey itself as important repair work was being undertaken. (See picture gallery)  It was the 800th anniversary of the foundation of the abbey and took place in 1927. Both the Anglican and Catholic Churches drew big crowds and took place on separate days. Reports were in the Barrow Guardian and the Barrow News Saturday, July 23rd 1927.

“Thursday was a red- letter day for Roman Catholicism in Barrow and throughout the whole of the diocese of Lancaster which embraces Furness, Westmorland, Cumberland, and extends as far as Preston and the Fylde district. Tremendous crowds of people all along the route witnessed the procession to the Abbey Park, and at the abbey a considerable crowd awaited its arrival at the abbey. It was without question the largest demonstration of its kind ever witnessed in Barrow, and also the most spectacular.

It was evident to the casual onlooker that a tremendous amount of time and effort were expended in staging such a wonderful and memorable pageant. The three parishes in Barrow, St. Mary’s, St. Patrick’s and the Sacred Heart, seemed to vie with each other in presenting the most striking picture, with tableaux symbolical of Roman Catholic faith and teaching. Such a long and varied parade beggars description. Apart from its scenic beauty it bore a deep significance especially to all of the Roman Catholic community, and a deep religious fervour and enthusiasm was a marked feature of the whole proceedings.” (See picture gallery page 11)

“Eight centuries of Furness Abbey were celebrated on Saturday with the impressive ceremony by the Church of England. The celebrations opened with a procession from Barrow to the Abbey Park (the amphitheatre). Dr. Henson, Bishop of Durham paid tribute to the civilising force of monasteries. These celebrations should call attention to all lovers of the glorious past, to Furness Abbey, the one time kingdom of Lakeland and bring more visitors to a district, where the contrasts are so strange and marked and yet so alluring.”

Master of novices– this White Monk trains the new monks.

Master mason
The master mason was the architect.  He was a very powerful man and would have travelled from one abbey to another with his plan, often gaining ideas and inspiration from the great cathedrals in France e.g. Chartres, Notre Dame.  

The monks established corn mills; Orgrave, (between Marton and Dalton), Little Mill below Mill Brow and New Mill. At the period of the Dissolution there were no less than three mills within the precincts of the abbey, one horsemill and two watermills. (From the Certificate of the Revenues).

A meat refectory.  A room where meat could be eaten and where the rules were relaxed for the sick. The word is also used to describe tip up quire stalls. In this context the word meant a mercy seat for the monks who stood at all services. The seats were hinged when in up position; a small shelf projected outwards so that a monk could then take some pressure off his feet but still remain upright by leaning against this shelf.

Some abbots of the greater abbeys obtained this status by papal privilege. Such abbots were allowed to wear a mitre and carry a crozier. Furness Abbey was a mitred abbey.

Collective name for choir/quire monks.

The buildings that house a community of men or women whose lives are devoted to the service of God.

Monastery garden
The monastery garden would have provided the monks with a supply of food, herbs and medicine. There would almost certainly have been an apiary at Furness.

A male member of a religious community living in a monastery.  

Monks’ Path
Footpath from Furness Abbey to Sowerby Lodge Farm

Records show that the Abbey of Furness had a Grange at Sowerby Lodge, but the footpaths between the two places have probably been ploughed over and built leaving very little trace of exactly where they were. However by using our present day footpaths, you are still able to walk from Sowerby Lodge Farm.

“The walk starts at the public footpath on the triangle of land that is bordered by Leith Flat Brow, Rating Lane and Abbey Road. The footpath sign is situated in Rating Lane beside a stoop. Follow the well-trodden path to Abbey Road then cross to the kissing gate opposite. The path now leads to the road at the rear of Furness General Hospital, passing between various buildings.

At the top of the road bear right and the footpath becomes obvious on the slope to your left; this now leads around the edge of the car park then between houses to emerge into Dane Avenue. Turn right then cross over the road and left into Portland Crescent; continue until a footpath turns off to the right between numbers 39 and 37, this now brings you to Dalton Lane. Turn left and continue until you have crossed over Hawcoat Lane, follow the road round to Quarry Brow and look for a short footpath on your right which passes between two walls.

At the top of this footpath is a kissing gate, after passing through walk directly ahead to find another kissing gate tucked into the right hand corner. Once through this gate cross the field bearing slightly to the left to reach the footpath signs situated in the hedge. Here the path splits right and takes you to Bank Lane but our way is directly ahead until you turn right over a stile into the next field. The next stile is in the bottom hedge of the field and this leads to Ormsgill housing estate. The way is now a tarmac footpath leading through High Lea Walk and Angle Meadow.

You now have a choice to make – you can either walk across a rough piece of ground (a sign clearly says the land is the property of Ashley’s) or walk around it to arrive at Park Road. Cross over and directly to the right of the buildings that has Telemeter and Drew signs on the end and you will see a stile. After crossing the stile and keeping to the left, you pass a Cumbria Way sign and arrive at a bridge that crosses over the railway line. The path now turns right and you walk down the slope to Sowerby Lodge Farm. Walk between the house and the barns and there is a stile almost straight ahead at the right side of the gate. This now leads to a wide pathway and then on to the shore.

If you now turn left and walk along the shore for a few minutes you can see the remains of a small sandstone wall or dyke and a pathway wide enough to have taken horses and carts. This could lead us to the fords that crossed the channel and the granges at Walney but we are turning round and returning to Furness Abbey.

After retracing your steps back to the farmyard you may prefer to follow a different route back to the abbey.

From the farmyard turn left down the access road to Park Road, cross over and walk up Bank Lane to Rakesmoor Lane. Now walk down Keswick Avenue to Whinlatter Drive into Ravenglass Road to Glenridding Drive and look for the footpath between numbers 84 and 86. After crossing the next stile cross the field to another stile in the top left hand corner, this leads on to a broad track and a gate which brings you to Breast Mill Beck Road. Turn right and make your way to Abbey Road and back to the start of the walk. You could turn left at Abbey Approach to visit Furness Abbey.

The first part of the walk can be done in less than one hour, the alternative route takes about one and a quarter hours”.

Compiled by Denise Dawson and Irene Cutcliffe.

Monte Cassino (Italy)
Founded by St. Benedict circa 529. The saint wrote the 73 regulations or chapters of the Rule here. Known as the Benedictine Rule it has been followed by most European monks and nuns to this day. Monte Cassino has been completely rebuilt following its destruction by the allied forces in the Second World War (1939-1945).

See medieval monasticism in picture gallery

Mount St. Bernard Abbey, Leicestershire
This Cistercian Abbey is a live abbey. The White Monks (no lay brothers) follow the Divine Office today.

Rise     3.15 a.m.
Vigils    3.30 a.m.
Breakfast and private reading/study

Lauds   7.00 a.m.
Terce    8.00 a.m and Mass
Followed by work

Sext     12.15 p.m. (Followed by dinner).
None    2.15 p.m.
Followed by afternoon work

Vespers   5.30 p.m.  (Followed by supper).
Compline 7.30 p.m.
8pm retire

Every evening after Compline the Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen) is sung. The statue of Our Lady at the back of the church is floodlit for this last service of the day. The Salve statue is based on the Great Seal of Furness Abbey.

Pope John XXIII said “I never go to bed before three because then I know the Cistercians are praying”. He regarded the Cistercians and the Carthusians as the power houses of the Church.

By the mixing of lime, sand, and horsehair, medieval mortar was made.

(From Furness Abbey Coucher Book Vol II Part 3 Letters and Petitions)
“An inquest held at the abbey of Furness concerning the discovery of the body of Lawrence, lately abbot of Furness , feloniously killed and murdered, on the oath of twelve jurors; who say on oath that Brother A de D, Brother W de C, and Brother J de T, monks or fellow brethren of the aforesaid Lawrence, lately the abbot, with the aim that, by his death, one of the same three might be chosen as the abbot of that house.

And with this deceitful and shameful plan they concocted a certain lethal poison made up of nosalgaer, ersnak, and many other poisons as possible, and decided among themselves that one of the three, namely the aforesaid Brother A, should assist him who was recently abbot on the same day at Mass and that at the time of refilling the cup after the partaking of the body of Christ he should pour part of the aforesaid poison, mixed with the wine, into the aforesaid cup so that the aforesaid abbot, receiving it, should in consequence die.

If by chance, through tasting or seeing it, he had any inkling of that poison so that after that poison had been poured he refused to take it back into the cup or to swallow it, they decided that another of the three, namely the aforesaid Brother W de C, should be ready at the Mass, of him who was recently abbot and should suddenly stab the abbot himself with a certain sword at the altar and put him to death. Thus he might die in that way if he had not approached death through the other method beforehand.

The aforesaid monks planned that, in case the recent abbot did not wish to celebrate Mass on that same day, the third of them, Brother J de T, on the same day at meal – time at the ninth hour should take himself to the abbot’s kitchen, with the aforesaid poison secretly concealed about his person, and should offer to serve it to his own mouth and that he should place part of the aforesaid poison in the dish in which the broth was put for him. Thus the abbot should be killed by this method if he had not approached death by the other two methods mentioned before.

Accordingly it happened that the recent abbot, on that same day wishing to celebrate Mass moved towards his altar in that place and put on the priestly vestments which are needed for conducting a service of this kind; and the aforesaid Brother A, seeing this and delighted as a result, offered himself to the same recent abbot to assist him . In the aforesaid Mass he assisted, and the service was conducted until the appointed time arrived, namely the time for refilling the chalice. He placed part of the aforesaid poison in the aforesaid chalice, mixed with the wine, and aforesaid late abbot, at that time thinking thoughts of peace and not of torment, received the aforesaid poison that had been poured into the chalice after he had blessed it, and drank it completely, apart from some that remained in the chalice; as a result he was fatally stricken.

Suddenly on account of this the aforesaid late abbot began to weaken and, with Mass ended, left quickly for his own room, and in this instance there came the aforesaid conspirator, Brother J, bringing food to comfort him, with a certain dish of porridge, with part of the aforesaid poison placed in it, and offered it to the abbot. He swallowed that porridge, his stomach began to swell, and the aforesaid Brother W came, bringing a drink, with part of the aforesaid poison mixed with wine in a certain silver-gilt goblet, completely covered. He gave it him to drink, and after he started to drink it, he broke wind very loudly.

And thus the aforesaid late abbot ought to have died from the aforesaid poison which the aforesaid Brother W had given him in the dish if he had not died from that poison which the aforesaid Brothers A and J gave him; and also he should have died from that poison which the aforesaid Brother A had given him in the chalice if he had not died from those poisons which the aforesaid Brothers W and J gave him.

And thus the aforesaid monks poisoned, slaughtered, and murdered the aforesaid Lawrence, lately their own abbot, through deceit and shame, criminally and treacherously, on the day, in the place, and in the group aforesaid; and they say that as soon as they had committed the aforesaid murder, they fled, and they had nothing in goods or chattels, and they say that Brother Thomas de D was the first to find the body of the aforesaid murdered man”.
(Translated from the Latin by David Bishop).

Said to be taken from a manuscript written around the time of Henry IV (1399 – 1413). This means it could not refer to the Lawrence who was supposedly abbot between 1461 and 1491, but could very well refer to the Lawrence supposedly abbot during the reign of Henry III, between 1235 and 1251.
As the list of abbots is decennial there is a problem in determining the name of the murdered abbot. My own opinion is that Laurencius de Acclom the 19th Abbot was the victim of the crime.
For a full list of decennial abbots visit the Abbey Museum.

Mystery plays have their roots in liturgical drama.  The sacred dramas of medieval times were attempts to illustrate Christian doctrine by representing incidents from the life of Christ.  Individual plays made up the whole play, and were each presented by different craft guilds. In the Middle Ages the word "mystery" was synonymous with craft and to ask "What is your mystery?" meant, "What is your craft?"  and so plays came to be called mystery plays. Very often the craft matched the play e.g. the shipwrights' play was the building of the ark, the fishermen's and mariners' play was Noah and the Flood.

The bakers' play was the Last Supper while the Goldsmiths' play was the Adoration of the Magi. Four cycles of mystery plays have been preserved: Chester, York, Townley or Wakefield, Ludus Coventria, now attributed to Norfolk.  Also in existence are ten plays from Coventry. The whole plan of Redemption was covered in the Mystery Plays. "Through these anonymous masterpieces of the English folk tradition, plays for the people if ever there were such plays we can still get a glimpse of the faith and vision which shone through their lives like sunshine through cracked glass"  (Norman Nicholson).

The Kendal Corpus Christi play is mentioned by Eamonn Duffy in his book "The Stripping of the Altars," as a good example of religious drama, emphasising its educational value as part of "the enormous didactic and imaginative effectiveness of the religious plays of the Middle Ages, once seen never forgotten".  Michael Mullett writes, in his article,  "Late Medieval Play, Regional Bulletin, Centre for North West Regional Studies, summer '98,  "A didactic Miracle or Passion Play was intended to function as a performed sermon" See Furness Mystery Plays.
Mitred Abbot / Abbey
Top of Page
Top of Page
Marsh Grange
Mystery Plays
Alice Leach