The Dissolution Of The Manasteries Essay Research

The Dissolution Of The Manasteries Essay, Research Paper

Background to the Dissolution

The Dissolution of the Monasteries and the events which followed, were all brought about as a direct result of the break with Rome. The reason for the break, lies simply in Henry?s frustration at his inability to secure a divorce form his wife Catherine of Aragon, and a blessing from the Pope for his new marriage to Anne Boleyn, although arguably, there was a need for reformation within the church.

Prior to the break with Rome, the church was rife with pluralism, simony (one of the pope?s main failings) and breaches of the vows of celibacy. It is therefore clear that there were problems with the English church prior to the break, but although it was unpopular, many people including Henry remained Catholic:

?A firm Catholic, he was keen to have papal approval, and the more unlikely this became, the more he was forced to question the Pope?s jurisdiction in England? [2]

To accomplish a break, Henry needed some kind of justification, and he would also have to ensure that in implementing the break itself, he was not seen as supporting heresy and the Protestant reformation in particular. With the aid of advisor Thomas Cromwell, Henry aims to enact the break with Rome using statute authority; that of the king, lords and commons acting through parliament.

?A sequence of truly revolutionary acts of parliament now cut the bonds ? spiritual, legal, financial ? which linked the English church and state to Rome? [3]

There were several main landmarks in the break with Rome, the first of which was the act in restraint of appeals. This was a justification and definition of royal supremacy, and was grafted by Thomas Cromwell. It was the act of supremacy in 1534 however, that would prove to be Henrys greatest step forward in the break. It confirmed Henry?s headship of the church and explicitly reserved the crown the rights to the organizing and jurisdictional powers formerly held by the Papacy. By this, the crown would control the right o define the church?s teachings and doctrinal decisions, ultimately resulting in the downfall of the monasteries.

As a result of Henry?s pressure on the English clergy in his attempts to convince the Pope to grant a divorce, the dissolution of the monasteries became an important and necessary task. By removing the Pope?s most loyal supporters from England, Henry was severely limiting his power.

In 1533, in stead of Anne Boleyn?s impending pregnancy, Thomas Cranmer, an archbishop, declared Henry?s marriage to Catherine invalid, (?the king must stop living in this sin with this woman who is not his wife? [4]) and married him to Anne Boleyn. ?The Act of Supremacy? then, established Henry as head of the Church of England, and marked the end of the Pope?s influence in his realm. Threatened by the Pope with excommunication, if he did not take Catherine back, all hopes of reconciliation with Rome were passed. Henry?s reformation was moving quickly.When henry VIII first initiated the dissolution of the Monasteries, he was facing criticism from various sides. It must be understood that in deciding the validity of Henry?s claims for the dissolution, there are two sides to the argument.

Protestant supporters of Henry?s actions, argue that after the 1530?s, all the monasteries were corrupt and a place where sinners lived in a luxury paid for by others. The reasons for monastic life they claimed, were based on a lie created by the Papacy, to strengthen its own position: In order to lessen the time a person spends in purgatory when they die, money must be donated to the church in order to save their soul.

As a result of these false and morally corrupt claims on behalf of the Papacy, Protestants argued that the monasteries deserved to be dissolved, as the money they survived upon was gained under false pretences.

Another factor that supports Henry?s argument for the dissolution, were the results found from the ?valor ecclesiasticus?. Within this, it was discovered that on average, one quarter of a monastic houses wealth went to the head of the house, usually an absentee leader, living their life as a country gentleman, free form responsibility.

Revelations such as this obviously angered the public, but whether or not Henry was angered in the same way, or merely saw these factors as further support for his claims to dissolve the monasteries is debatable. It is true that there was a certain element of corruption present, with immorality, sexual perversion and homosexual practices all being admitted to by hundreds of monks. But surely, all these factors point to a need for reform rather than dissolution.

The above evidence alone does not present a clear picture of the real situation of the monasteries in England, that is certain. It is now known that only ten percent of the monastic houses in England were subject to corruption, and that the majority followed their monastic ideals and way of life unfailingly, greatly supported by the public, and therefore laying waste to Henry?s claims that the monasteries were no longer regarded as places of worship, but of sin, carnal and abominable.

Monasteries generally functioned well, and there is an air of hypocrisy about these claims, if we consider that Thomas Cromwell himself gained wealth at the monasteries’ expense wherever possible. Cromwell accepted various ?gifts? from the smaller monastic houses, in return for supporting their appeals against the new legislation?s, an act which he neither intended to carry out nor dwell upon.

It is clear then that following his promise to the King to make him and the crown wealthy and lucrative once more, Cromwell decided that the closure of the monasteries was where he would achieve this proposed wealth. By legally closing the monasteries, this ?theft? would make the King wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. If we consider then, that Henry?s motives were almost entirely based on his wish for wealth, and without which his proposed dissolution would never have taken place, the validity of his claims is somewhat reduced.

Henry VIII?s reasons for he dissolution of the monasteries therefore, were not at all justified in the way he had claimed. He sought only wealth, and it is this desire to gain control and achieve the riches that came with it which motivated Henry. His greed and the falsity of his many claims against the monasteries succeeds in revealing his real wishes, and nullifies any previous arguments based on his religious concerns for the dissolution.


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