The Dissolution of the Monasteries

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The Dissolution of the Monasteries

Religious: To committed Protestants the monasteries were a reminder of the power and the practises of the Catholic Church.

Religious and Political: The monasteries owed their affiliation to the Pope in Rome, not to Henry. Henry was trying to assert himself as supreme Head of the church in England.

Religious: the houses were associated with Papist practises such as praying for the dead. The Reformers were moving away from the idea of purgatory, and so these prayers were rendered unnecessary.

Financial: The king was in need to meet the expenses of government.

Financial: It was a period of inflation which meant that money was not worth what it once was. Henry could not survive off crown rents and loans alone.

Financial: Cromwell wanted to use monastic lands as an endowment off which the monarchy could feed forever. (Palmer)

Financial: Henry wanted extra money without taxing the people.

Financial and Foreign Affairs: Henry needed money to put down the Geraldine Rebellion in Ireland.

Continuation: It was nothing new. Cromwell had helped Wolsey dissolve monasteries.

Religious: A number of lay people protested against the corruption of some of the (especially smaller) monasteries.

Economic: The gentry and nobility were eager to buy more land.

The ProcessThe Process

9 000 religious monks and nuns were forced to find an alternative way of life.


The government had to pay out a large sum of money for some of these dispossessed persons.

The immediate area around the monastery may have suffered from the absence of monastic charity.

The monasteries provided the crown with over a million pounds.

The lay estates profited.

The sale of monastic estates gave the purchasers a considerable vested interest in the Reformation and this was one aspect of religious change that even Mary Tudor dared not alter. (Palmer)

Due to the purchasing of land, the influence of the squire was increased in the parish.

There was the loss of many buildings.

Destruction of buildings

Priceless Medieval art was melted down, and disappeared forever. There was a loss to scholarship as the libraries disappeared also.

The dissolution of the lesser monasteries was a cause of rebellion - the Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536.

Scarisbrick: He thinks Henry had planned the dissolution of the larger monasteries all along, and it was not an after thought. In his evidence he comments on the advice that Henry gave to the Scots on dissolving the monasteries, stating that you must be secretive at first.

Palmer: "It was possible for large parts of England not to have noticed the political Reformation, but few would have failed to be touched by some aspect of the dissolution of the monasteries."

He believes that the motive for dissolution was financial.

Elton: He says that the dissolution of the monasteries has been over-emphasised. He says that although it was spectacular, it was not the central part of the Reformation. He believes that monasticism in England was already on its last legs.

He says that the MPs wanted the land.

He also maintains that the land of the monasteries had been under attack for two centuries.

Guy: he believes that they had to go because they could not operate alongside supremacy. He implies that there were more intellectual origins to the dissolution.