From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
simple:Dissolution of the Monasteries
The Dissolution of the Monasteries was the formal process, in 1536-1540, by which King Henry VIII confiscated the property of the Roman Catholic institutions in England for himself as the new head of the Church of England. This happened at about the same time that the Protestant Reformation was taking place in mainland Europe.
It's been alleged that getting the lands and treasuries of those religious houses was as much his purpose in splitting with the Church of Rome as getting divorced from Catherine of Aragon, however the evidence points against this, since he spent five years pressuring the Pope for his annulment before finally giving up and splitting from Rome. Rather, having gained control over the church, he was unable to resist the temptation to use its wealth to clear the country's debts - especially as the church had an income three times greater than the state.
In the summer of that year, the visitors started their work, and "preachers" and "railers" were sent to deliver sermons from the pulpits of the churches on three themes:
- The monks and nuns in the monasteries were sinful "hypocrites" and "sorcerers" who were living lives of luxury and engaging in every kind of sin there was.
- Those monks and nuns were sponging off the working people and giving nothing back and, thus, were a serious drain on England's economy.
- If the king got all the property the abbeys had, he would not need any taxes from the people ever again.
In April 1539 a new Parliament passed a law giving the king the rest of the monasteries in England. Some of the abbots resisted, and that autumn the abbots of Colchester, Glastonbury, and Reading were executed for treason in doing so. The other abbots gave in and signed their abbeys over to the king. Some of the confiscated church buildings were destroyed (and many others vandalized, their altars and windows smashed -- including irreplaceable stained glass ones -- and their tombs stripped and emptied).
Other losses to posterity included the many valuable books held in the monastic libraries, virtually all of which were destroyed and their pages used for tasks such as stopping wine casks, polishing candlesticks, or wrapping fish. It is believed that many of the earliest Anglo-Saxon manuscripts were lost at this time. The world-famous Book of Kells was only preserved by being smuggled out of the monastery at great risk by the last Abbot. Monastic schools and hospitals were also lost, with serious consequences locally.
Many of the dismantled monasteries and friaries were sold for nominal amounts (often to the local townspeople), and some of the lands the king gave away; there were also pensions to be paid to some of the dispossessed clerics. Although the total value of the confiscated property has been calculated to have been as high as £200,000 at the time, the actual amount of income King Henry received from it from 1536 through 1547 averaged only £37,000 per year, about 20% of what the monks had derived from it.