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Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Dissolution of the Monasteries

Between 1536 and 1540 King Henry VIII and his Protestant-leaning chancellor, Thomas Cromwell sold off the property and valuables of the 800 monasteries, nunneries and friaries in England after breaking with the papacy For years Cromwell and his advisers had harbored reservations about their place in Christian life. In particular they were concerned about their theology of intercessory prayers for the dead.

By 1540 there were no monasteries left and their dissolution bought the king large revenues and by selling many to the noblemen at a cheap price, established an upper middle class, which has ever since been a significant factor in English life. Meanwhile the monks and nuns were left with a small government funded pension to live on.

As the majority of the hospitals at the time had been attached to the monasteries, this meant many of the sick have nowhere else to go, so they ended up on the streets. Some hospitals such as St Bartholomew’s and St Thomas’s were saved and refounded under lay control. However many more, which had been founded to help the poor were not replaced. 

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