How and why did Henry introduce the dissolution of the monasteries?


What role did monastries play prior to the dissolu

Around 800 monastries in England and they were central to the life of both the rich and the poor

Main function- say prayers for the souls of the dead in order to ease passage through purgatory

Monastries were some of the biggest landowners in the country

Provided employment to many, including on farms

Cetrees for learning and the arts

1 of 7

Potential Impact of closing them?

Possible increase in land
Local economy suffers
More money for Henry
Dissatifaction in Church and in Henry
Hunger and starvation
large groups of people moving around

2 of 7

Financial Incentives for Closing Down?

The Monastries owned 1/4 of all of England's land and had income which the Valor Ecclesiasticus revealed to be 10 times that of the crown

Chapuys (Imperial ambassador) stated that Cromwell had promised to make Henry 'the richest king in Christendom' 

Henry was aware that in Germany the princes had appropriated much Church property. Luther had called for monastries to be dissolved so they could spend the money on education

There was a threat of war from France and money was needed to fund it.

3 of 7

Financial and Political Reasons for Closing?

The Break with Rome had seen relations with France break down- the French Pension had been stopped and there was a need to build funds to prepare aganist an anticipated Habsburg- Valois Alliance

The sale of monastic lands would help to tie the purchasers to the new order. The purchasers would resist the reformation of the Pope on fear of losing their land

4 of 7

Political Incentives for Closing down?

Cromwell must have learned a lot from Wolsey about appropriating the Church property- Wolsey had dissolved 29 religious houses in the 1520's

Selling off land from the dissolution would ensure loyality to Henry as Head of the Church

Monastries were a symbol of Rome, so stood in the way of Henry's supremacy

Since the Break, Henry did not approve of any institution having loyality to anyone other than him

5 of 7

Religious Reasons

The Monastries traditionally contained the clerics who were most loyal to the Pope; dissolution offered the only sure way of preventing a monastic rebellion. Ideas that opposition to the Catholic Church  (on the basis of claims of corruoption) were prevalent in Europe- Erasmus, Tyndale and Fish

The King's commisioners produced the 'Black Book' whihc was read before parliament in 1536. The reported that 2/3 of monastries were filled with 'abominable living' 
Since the Break with Rome, Henry felt it would be an affront to his 'imperial kingship' if religous orders were allowed to continue to hold alliance to institutions outside England. 

At the Cistercian Abbey of Hailes, the commisioners examined what had been treasured for centuries as one of the holiest relics in the land- a vial containing some of the blood of Christ- and declared it to be mere honey, clarified and coloured with Saffron.

6 of 7

Social/ Cultural Reasons for the Closing?

Humanist attacks the Otium ('remove yourself from the world') lifestyle and prefers a life of active involvement ('Negotium'). Monastries were seen as representing 'Otium' 

Henry's first Poor Law (1535) meant that the charitable role of the monastries was no longer so important; it instructed Justices of the Peace to prevent begging by supporting the Poor with Charity 

Nationalistic Feeling- ('The realm of England is an empire') does not sit well with institutions whose loyalities are to Rome

7 of 7


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all British monarchy - Tudors and Stuarts resources »