Photograph: Chancel & Altar of St. Margaret’s Minster, King’s Lynn

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Beautiful, speaks for itself. Photo by Francis Barker 2020

History of the Church: The Lost World of Monasteries

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Monasteries, the Abbey or Priory of the medieval world of England, are an enduring interest of mine, although I don’t claim to be an expert on ecclesiastical or architectural matters.

Many years ago, I did a series of watercolour reconstructions of one priory, how it may have looked at its height (see above).

To think that these places, which became so criticised and demonised, especially in the reign of Tudor King Henry VIII, were the centres of education not only of the monks and nuns who lived there, but were also enriching the local communities, providing jobs, education, lodging, medical care too.

To have these dissolved, stripped bare and taken down, the monks or nuns dismissed at the behest of ‘Good King Henry’ and Thomas Cromwell – well, it must have been truly catastrophic for the communities that were left without them. That doesn’t quite seem to come across in most of the accepted history of what we call The Reformation.

There are always at least two sides to any story.