In Ken Follett's series of books about the fictional town of Kingsbridge, the monastery essentially acts as lord over the surrounding area. They collect rent on lands they own, hear cases between the town's residents, and perform other duties that the local lord would. Did this actually happen in Europe?

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    What did your preliminary research reveal? (Wikpedia section on Monastic life points out that Monastic income came in part from rents/investments.
    – MCW
    Oct 19, 2017 at 23:15
  • @MarkC.Wallace I mostly found lists of internal duties of specific monks and descriptions of monastic life.
    – Zenon
    Oct 19, 2017 at 23:35
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    @Zenon Yes, I know what you mean. It can sometimes be hard to see the wood for the trees when trying to search online. As a rule though, it's a good idea to let us know what you have found as part of the question. It can help us to give better answers. :) Oct 19, 2017 at 23:41
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    @sempaiscuba Thanks, I'll keep that in mind for future questions.
    – Zenon
    Oct 19, 2017 at 23:51
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    Yes, it has happened. It is called feudalism, and yes, the church was part of the game by owning land.
    – Greg
    Oct 20, 2017 at 16:52

1 Answer 1


Yes, monasteries in the medieval period were in fact powerful lords of feudal estates.

Most bishops and monasteries had large landholdings, which had been granted to them over the years by kings, or great lords. At one stage, the church was the largest landholder in Europe.

The monastery at Luxeuil in Burgundy had enough land to support 15,000 manors. Another bishop of St Martin of Tours in France ruled something like 20,000 serfs.

As with any other feudal landlord, the tenants of the monastery would owe rents and duties to their landlord (in addition to the tithes they owed to the church).

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    In France (pre-Revolution), the First Estate "comprised the entire clergy".
    – J Asia
    Oct 20, 2017 at 1:35
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    @sempaiscuba Luxeuil is in Burgundy.
    – njuffa
    Oct 20, 2017 at 3:55
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    One of the reasons Henry VIII of England dissolved the monasteries - he wanted their money!
    – TheHonRose
    Oct 20, 2017 at 15:46
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    @TheHonRose Absolutely, although their role in the 1536 Pilgrimage of Grace was probably the tipping-point in Henry's eyes. ;-) Oct 20, 2017 at 23:16
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    @Zenon It's mentioned (with some other examples) on page 187 Oct 23, 2017 at 17:38

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