The House of the Greyfriars in Canterbury - 4
|The House of the Greyfriars in Canterbury|
In the choir—part of the south wall of which may now be seen—the high altar was dedicated to St. Francis. Mention is also made in an old will of the Chapel of the Holy Saviour within the Grey Friars Church, and this it is believed was built out from the south side of the nave.
The churchyard was on the north side of the Church and must have been of considerable size, since records serve to show the vast number of people of all ranks who desired to be buried there and left bequests accordingly.
Like all the churches of the Friars Minor, the Canterbury Church was regarded as " sanctuary," and there are still a few records which show that felons must frequently have sought refuge there. In 1338 two of the Canterbury Friars were pardoned for rescuing two felons who were on their way to execution.
So we pass on to the early part of the fifteenth century, where we find that the Franciscan Order had changed considerably from the charm and simplicity with which its early years had been endowed. The Minorites had become easy-going and luxury-loving after the fashion of the monks, and the possession of property was no longer something to be shunned. But about this time certain brethren abroad decided to return to the early principles. Calling themselves the Friars Observants, they denounced the modern Friars and then comfortable lives, styling them Conventuals, though even the Observants had no intention of returning to the extreme rules of poverty laid down by St. Francis. The Observants were introduced into England by Edward IV in 1482, and the Canterbury House became one of the only six Observants' Houses in this country.
We must now turn with regret to the final phase in the Franciscan history of Canterbury. It is a tragic story and one which casts a shadow over the peaceful beauty of Grey Friars.
Following his quarrel with the Pope, Henry VIII determined to make himself Supreme Head of the English Church. The monks and friars were early recognised by the King as likely to offer the most resistance to his plan, and he therefore had all their houses visited, the inmates examined concerning their faith and obedience to him, and bound by an oath of allegiance.
In April, 1534, a Commission was appointed and the work began. Generally speaking, the Conventuals seem to have accepted the oath, but the Observants resisted it.
In 1538 the King gave Richard Ingworth, Bishop of Dover, a commission to visit and take possession of all English Friaries. He reached Canterbury on December 13 and the formal Deed of Surrender was signed. It is safe to assume that the Friars were given a small sum of a few shillings each and thereafter left to depart where they would.
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