Skip to content

How Medieval Monasteries Made Money

May 9, 2013

Medieval Monasteries needed to make money to survive, some orders, like the Cistercians, did not want to make any sort of profit, but the Benedictines liked to make their money and were very wealthy throughout the middle ages. The Benedictines followed the rule of St Benedict and are commonly known as the black monks. Some Benedictine monasteries were founded before the Norman Conquest tended to be financially better off, and those that weren’t still did well, and here is how.

As religious houses, Benedictine monasteries provided religious services to the community, at a cost; tithes would have been granted to them and for a large monastery, this could be a lot of money. Donations were also made to the monasteries, in either cash or materials that could be used or sold.

Benedictine monasteries were also land owners in the middle ages, most were endowed with land in their foundation, some didn’t increase the land they owned, but others did. Abbey’s such as St Albans and Bury St Edmunds increased their land ownership and used their monks to administer the manors and land they owned. This land generated money for the abbeys through rent and other services, paid in money and kind. Land could be used for arable farming, another way to generate money or it could be used for pastoral farming. Although the pastoral farming tended to be left to the Cistercians and those in Scotland, East Anglia, Northern England and Wales.

Multure was a big part of the income of many monasteries in England. Multure was a fee payable to the owner of a mill, and everyone needed to use a mill to grind their grain. Many monasteries, including St Albans and Bury St Edmunds, had mils on their land. Abbots did not allow any other mills, even hand mills, meaning that people had to use the abbot’s mill and pay multure to the abbot and monastery for this privilege.

Finally, monasteries held courts, which would create money through handing out fines to those living under the abbey’s jurisdiction. The monastery would also benefit from tolls from the markets that would take place in the market towns.

Medieval monasteries really were money-making machines. They knew how to administrate their land well, and how to squeeze every last penny out of those living and working on their lands. Many Benedictine monasteries grew in wealth and had many wealthy assets, including land and items. This ultimately did not help in their downfall, when Henry VIII was not happy with the wealth of the abbeys during his reign.

For a more detailed discussion on this see: –

‘The Monastic Economy’ in Monastic and religious orders in Britain, 1000-1300 by Janet Burton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

Advertisements

From → Medieval History

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

elliedanielartandcraft

A Collection of Art and Craft Thoughts, Ideas, Photos and Memories

Whisky and Tea

Cava socialism, history, books.

Geek Girl Rambles

Overly passionate geek girl with a compulsion to write.

Reckless Historians

A Site Where We Let The Past Speak For Itself

librarycrystal

Saving the world, one book at a time.

Dog-eared

Reviewing books, new and old, in the order they hit the bedside table.

Ed Mooney Photography

The home of Kildare based Photographer, Blogger and self proclaimed Ruinhunter.

Interesting Literature

A Library of Literary Interestingness

Practically Historical

History is the Teacher of Life

mediaevalmusings

1,000 years of history in blog-sized bites.

Katherine Givens

Let candlelight guide you through my shadows.

15thcenturyspinning

Using experimental archaeology to learn 15th century spinning techniques

Boppard Conservation Project - Glasgow Museums

This project was made possible by a generous grant from the Clothworkers Foundation

Patterns from History

Making History Accessible

Viking Specialist at Large

Photographs and thoughts focused on my research into the medieval world and my academic work.

Stained Glass Attitudes

Fondly uttered platitudes on art and architecture | Dr James Alexander Cameron

%d bloggers like this: