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Monastic Architecture in England

Key facts

Sorry, this course is currently unavailable. Please use the course enquiry form to be kept informed of future runs of this course.

TypeSummer Schools - Oxford University Summer School for Adults
DatesSat 19 to Sat 26 Jul 2014 - Week two
Subject area(s)Architecture
CATS points10
FeesFrom £610.00
Application statusClosed to new applications
Course codeO13I208JBR
Course contactIf you have any questions about this course, please email OUSSA@conted.ox.ac.uk or telephone +44 (0) 1865 270396.


The abbeys and priories were a focus of rich architectural creativity, and a remarkable amount of this extraordinary architecture survived the dissolution of England's monasteries in the sixteenth century. While, for example, the great abbeys of Reading and Glastonbury are essentially archaeological sites today, abbey churches such as Sherborne and Waltham survive to serve thriving parishes, and among the monastic cathedrals, Canterbury retains not only the great church itself but also many of its monastic buildings. We will trace the dramatic growth of the monastic orders in Britain expressed through their architecture.

Programme details

Session 1: Introduction An overview of monastic architecture in England and it development by the different monastic orders – looking at examples such as St Augustine Canterbury, Glastonbury, Fountains, Peterborough and Sherborne.

Session 2: Arrival of the Orders A historic tour through the periods in which successive monastic orders came to England – Celtic, Benedictine, Cluniac, Augustinian, Cistercian, Premonstratensian and Carthusian – setting the scene for the consideration of their architecture in the subsequent sessions.

Session 3: Benedictine Abbeys Canterbury offers both the abbey of St Augustine and the cathedral itself as Benedictine monastic foundations – indeed the survival of the cathedral’s monastic buildings in alternative uses represents perhaps the best preserved monastic complex in England. Glastonbury, Muchelney and Whitby offer us other insights to the architecture of the Benedictines.
Session 4: Cluniac and Augustinian Orders The central role of Cluny in the European church is considered along with its foundations in Britain such as Reading Abbey. The alternative Rule associated with St Augustine of Hippo is described in relation to the creation of priories such as St Frideswide’s in Oxford, Bolton Priory in Yorkshire and Christchurch Priory in Dorset.

Session 5: Visit to St Frideswide’s Priory – Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral
Session 6: Visit to St Frideswide’s

Session 7: The Cistercian Abbeys - 1 The rapid development in the twelfth century of the Cistercian order in Europe is considered flowing through to the foundation of Cistercian houses in Britain from 1128. The distinctive mode of living in remote rural locations, the advanced use of water, and the direct management of agricultural production is reflected in the forms of the architecture they created.
Session 8: The Cistercian Abbeys - 2 This mode of living is looked at in detail for the abbeys of Rievaulx and Fountains in the order’s carefully chosen settings in rural Yorkshire.

Session 9: Monks, Friars and Knights A description of the work of the Premonstratensians and the Carthusian order’s distinctive form of “charterhouse” continuing with the churches of the Franciscans and Dominicans and the unusual form of the churches founded by the Knights Templar.
Session 10: Monastic Survival – Parish Churches A remarkable group of abbey churches survived the Dissolution on the basis of petitions for their preservation as parish churches – beautiful examples such as Sherborne Abbey and Christchurch Priory. In other instances only part of the church has survived (e.g. Waltham Abbey and Dore Abbey) but nonetheless provides both a magnificent parish church and a first-hand view of the medieval monastic architecture.

Session 11: Monastic Survival - Cathedrals Roughly half of the English medieval cathedrals were monastic foundations – thus the medieval architecture of monastic churches such as Durham and Canterbury survived the Dissolution in recognition of their cathedral status. Additionally great abbeys such as Gloucester and Peterborough were chosen as the seat of new dioceses at the Reformation, and again were spared the Dissolution.
Session 12: Abbeys Today and Conclusion Monastic life continues at locations such as Ampleforth in Yorkshire and Buckfast in Devon. The enclosed form of the Carthusian charterhouse continues at St Hugh’s Parkminster in Sussex. We will round up the programme with a discussion and review of course objectives.

FIELDTRIP Tuesday morning will be set aside for a visit to Oxford’s Christ Church cathedral – which is the church of the former St Frideswide’s Augustinian Priory. We will meet and walk to Christ Church for a tour at 10.30am, followed by a walk around and discussion concluding at around 12.30pm. At the time of writing group admission to Christ Church will cost £8.50 per person, inclusive of access to both the cathedral and college.



Mr Keith Hasted

Role: Tutor

Keith Hasted MA studied history of art and architecture at first degree level, going on to research Italian Renaissance palace architecture for his...more

Course aims

From the foundation of the monastic Canterbury Cathedral, to the building of Cistercian Abbeys such as Fountains in North Yorkshire, we aim to trace the creation and architectural styles of these great abbey buildings – including both the abbey churches and the monastic complexes surrounding their cloisters.

This course will enable students to:
  • recognise the principal architectural styles used in building the abbeys in England;
  • link the development of monastic architecture in England with the spread of the monastic orders across Europe.
  • Level and demands

    On acceptance you will be given preparatory reading and a title for a short essay of about 1500 words to be submitted before the summer school begins. The essay is intended to help you clarify your thinking and reading on the chosen subject.

    The purpose of the first essay is to get your own ideas down on paper - we will send a guide to writing essays with your enrolment pack. By completing the required preliminary work you will be able to make the most of your time at Oxford.

    At your first tutorial your tutor will discuss your essay and make suggestions for a further piece of coursework to be completed during the week. The may take the form of another essay (of about 1000 words) or a presentation, undertaken either individually or jointly with another student. If you decide to work with another student, each student will need to submit individual documentation of the presentation.

    Recommended reading

    Tim Tatton-Brown. 2006. The Abbeys and Priories of Britain. New Holland.
    Christopher Brooke. 2003. The Age of the Cloister. Sutton.
    Peter Brown. 2003. The Rise of Western Christendom. Blackwell.
    Glyn Coppack. 2009. Fountains Abbey : The Cistercians in Northern England. Amberley.
    Margaret Sparks. Canterbury Cathedral Precincts : A Historical Survey. Dean and Chapter of Canterbury.

    Teaching methods

    All summer school courses are taught through group seminars and individual tutorials. Students also conduct private study when not in class and there is a well stocked library at Oxford University Department for Continuing Education to support individual research needs.

    Teaching outcomes

    By the end of this course students will be expected to understand:
  • the successive arrival of different monastic orders in England - and the implications of their background influences, and the historic period, on the architectural forms of their buildings;
  • the key architectural features of the principal abbeys considered.

  • And students will have gained and/or developed the following skills:
  • recognition of the key medieval architectural styles applied to the monastic architecture of England;
  • recognition of the layout of the typical range of monastic buildings laid out around the cloister – of particular value in interpreting sites where major parts of these buildings were lost at the Dissolution.
  • Accommodation

    All bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished rooms, all with tea/coffee making facilities, TV, telephone and private bath or shower rooms.

    The residential course fees including tuition, all meals and accommodation are per person, per course/week.

    Accommodation, along with your course, can be booked online using the 'enrol now' icon. You can also apply by post. To do this please print the downloadable application form, complete it, and then post it to the Programme Administrator. If you have a specific question regarding accommodation please contact the summer school administrator: oussa@conted.ox.ac.uk or telephone: + 44 (0)1865 270396.

    IMPORTANT: If you require shared accommodation you cannot enrol online. Instead, please download the application form, complete and email or post it to the OUSSA office. You should complete one application form for each student enrolling and return c/o OUSSA administrator via

    email: OUSSA@conted.ox.ac.uk

    fax: +44(0)1865 270 429

    or post: OUSSA, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD OX1 2JA).

    Additionally, if you have not already done so, please register on our website.

    To download the PDF application form


    There is a limited number of bursaries available, which include those kindly donated by the Governing Body of Kellogg College, Oxford, and the Ruth Windsor Fund.

    Bursaries are provided for UK applicants on low incomes or state benefits who wish to continue or resume studying. Bursaries will normally be offered to first time applicants to the summer school only. Please note that bursaries will not cover more than 50% of the OUSSA fee - and many students will receive less than this amount. Therefore, bursary applicants must be able to pay (at least) 50% of their course fee.

    The deadline for bursary applications is 1 March 2014. Please contact the Programme Administrator by email at oussa@conted.ox.ac.uk to request an application form. Please note that evidence is required to support bursary applications (eg wage slips, details of income from state benefits, Council Tax bills), and applicants are therefore advised to allow sufficient time to complete the necessary paperwork.

    Fee options

    Programme Fee
    Programme Fee (no accommodation; lunch and dinner provided): £610.00
    Programme Fee (single room - incl. all meals): £1280.00
    Programme Fee (deluxe single room - incl. all meals): £1380.00
    Catering: £0.00
    field trip to Christ Church: £10.00

    Apply for this course

    Click here for details of the application process.

    Sorry, this course is not currently accepting applications. If you have any questions about this course, please use the course enquiry form.

    Programmes including this module

    This module can be studied as part of these programmes:

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