A History of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds, 1182-1256

December 2007
5 colour, 5 black and white, 9 line illustrations
398 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in the History of Medieval Religion
ISBN: 9781843833246
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
BISAC HIS037010, REL033000

A History of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds, 1182-1256

Samson of Tottington to Edmund of Walpole

Antonia Gransden

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Definitive history of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds during a crucial period in its history.
St Edmund's Abbey was one of the most highly privileged and wealthiest religious houses in medieval England, one closely involved with the central government; its history is an integral part of English history. This book (the first of two volumes) offers a magisterial and comprehensive account of the Abbey during the thirteenth century, based primarily on evidence in the abbey's records [over 40 registers survive]. The careers of the abbots, beginning with the great Samson, provide the chronological structure; separate chapters study various aspects of their rule, such as their relations with the convent, the abbey's internal and external administration and its relations with its tenants and neighbours, with the king and the central government. Chapters are also devoted to the monks' religious, cultural and intellectual life, to their writings, book collection and archives. Appendices focus on the mid-thirteenth century accounts which give a unique and detailed picture of the organisation and economy of St Edmunds' estates in West Suffolk, and on the abbey's watermills and windmills.

Dr ANTONIA GRANSDEN is former Reader at the University of Nottingham.

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Table of Contents

Samson's biographer, Jocelin of Brackland (de Brakelond), and his work
Samson's early life and career
Samson's election to the abbacy
The early years of Samson's abbacy and reform of estate management
Conflict with the government
Relations with the town of Bury St Edmunds
Samson and secular law
Samson and the knights of St Edmund
Relations with the Angevin kings
Samson and the papacy
Samson as a builder
Religious and intellectual life under Samson
Samson's death and burial
The vacancy, 1211-1215, and election of Hugh of Northwold
The Abbots 1215-1256
Observance of the Rule of St Benedict
St Edmunds' liberties and the crown
Henry III and the cult of St Edmund
Abbreviations and Select bibliography


There is much to admire.There are, for example, fascinating details on such topics as bells and bell-ringing; the monks'employment of minstrels,water clocks, windmills and ruby rings; the cult and profits of the Bury saints; the problems that arose from allowing Cistercians to legislate on the diet of unreformed Benedictine monks; and a whole host of other such things. No one knows the Bury source materials better than Gransden. Few people have done more to broadcast their significance. CATHOLIC HISTORICAL REVIEW
A substantial, beautifully illustrated, and weighty book. SPECULUM
Here at last is the modern study [the abbey] deserves, the fruit of half a century of Antonia Gransden's meticulous scholarship. [...] The history of medieval Suffolk is flourishing, much of it published by the Boydell Press which has produced a superb volume which is as pleasing to handle as it is absorbing to read. JOURNAL OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY
This is a volume rich in detail and interest, and monastic historians have cause to be grateful to Dr Gransden. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW
This is a profound work of scholarship that will become indispensable reading for all serious students of English monasticism in the thirteenth century. [...] The book is beautifully produced and has excellent maps and illustrations. NOTTINGHAM MEDIEVAL STUDIES
An interesting and insightful history. A significant book which sheds light on an important thirteenth-century abbey. A significant and readable book and an outstanding contribution to monastic history. AMERICAN BENEDICTINE REVIEW
Antonia Gransden's magisterial study breathes new life into the study of Bury St Edmunds and opens up many areas of interest. DOWNSIDE REVIEW
A fascinating and clearly written book. [...] Makes good reading for anyone who enjoys English medieval history at both national and local level. SUFFOLK INSTITUTE OF ARCHAEOLOGY & HISTORY NEWSLETTER
This volume is important both for the medieval abbey of Bury St Edmunds, and for medieval Benedictinism in general. In particular, its analysis of and commentary on the sources present much original material and ideas, and the whole is an important guide to the very extensive survivals from the medieval abbey. THE LOCAL HISTORIAN

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