Cistercian Privileges

Pages 183-185

The Ledger Book of Vale Royal Abbey. Originally published by Manchester Record Society, Manchester, 1914.

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As stated in the Introduction, the third part of the Ledger-Book contains a collection of thirty-one papal bulls granting exemptions and other privileges to the Cistercian order. They are not printed here because they have no special reference to Vale Royal. Similar collections are found in other Cistercian chartularies, as, for example, those of Furness (printed) and Fountains (in the Bodleian Library at Oxford). Among these bulls is found the following example of an attempt to evade them.

Fo. 85. [The Case of a Monk of Whalley.]

One Master [fo. 53d (290d)] Adam Maynel, official of the archdeacon of Chester, had caused a certain monk of Whalley, Brother Arnold of Emeseye, to be summoned before him, for an offence committed (as the said official asserted) outside the exempt jurisdiction. And when the monk did not appear, the aforenamed official publicly excommunicated him in the churches. But the said monk appealed to the abbot of Westminster, the protector (conservator) of the order, and the abbot [of Whalley] obtained letters from the said abbot of Westminster revoking the said sentence of excommunication, in form as follows:—

The abbot of the monastery of Westminster of the order of St. Benedict in the diocese of London, subject to the holy apostolic see and to the court of Rome, preserver of the rights and liberties granted to the religious men the abbots, convents and brethren of the Cistercian order by the apostolic see, deputed by authority of that same see, to the religious men the abbots of Chester and Vale Royal, in the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, greeting and strait command of apostolic obedience. We have lately received a serious complaint from the religious men the abbot and convent of Whalleye, of the same order, stating that, although among the other privileges granted to the aforesaid religious of the order aforesaid by the apostolic see, as is abovesaid, they received a privilege and indulgence that no ordinary whosoever (the Supreme Pontiff or his specially deputed legate only excepted) should have power to summon them to their synods, or to excommunicate them or any of them, to suspend their convents, or to interdict their monasteries, oratories or chapels, and that all such sentences against them, their monasteries, oratories and chapels, should be null and void, for whatever offence they might be pronounced, saving only in matters of faith, as in their privileges more fully is contained; and the said religious have used these privileges and immunities peacefully and quietly from time immemorial: nevertheless Master Adam Maynel, official of the archdeacon of Chester [fo. 54 (291)], for no matter of faith (for such jurisdiction can by custom in no way pertain to his ordinary authority) but for a feigned and simulated cause, has now lately presumed to fulminate sentences of suspension and the greater excommunication against Brother Arnold de Emeseye, a monk professed at Whalleye of the abovesaid order, over whom he had in fact no jurisdiction ordinary or delegate and could not rightfully have any, and has in fact suspended and excommunicated him contrary to the form and tenor of their privileges aforesaid, in contempt of the apostolic see, under whose immediate jurisdiction it is well known the said Arnold is, and to the manifest prejudice of the aforesaid Arnold. And all and singular the premises were and are so publicly and notoriously manifest that by no tergiversation can they be concealed, as appears to us out of the abundance of faithful testimony furnished to us on the subject. We therefore, the aforesaid abbot and preserver, willing, by injunction of the apostolic see, not to pass over the premises under any pretence, revoke the aforesaid sentences of suspension and the greater excommunication pronounced in fact [but] contrary to the tenor of the privileges of the aforesaid religious men, as is aforesaid, in the person of the said Arnold, a brother of the order abovesaid, and in accordance with justice we pronounce them null and void and of no effect. Wherefore we send to you the authority under which we act in this behalf, under our seal, for your inspection, to be then sent back to us forthwith, commanding you, in virtue of the obedience by which you are bound to the apostolic see and under pain of the sentence of the greater excommunication, which we now and henceforward pronounce upon your persons if (as God forbid) you neglect anything in these writings or are remiss in this behalf, that you and each of you shall denounce or cause to be denounced the aforesaid sentences of suspension and the greater excommunication pronounced against the person of the aforesaid Brother Arnold, as contrary to the tenor of the privileges aforesaid although made by ordinary authority, and thus revoked and declared by us to be null and void, at suitable places and times at the requisition of the aforesaid Brother Arnold; and that you or one of you, on due request made to you in this behalf, shall cite or cause to be cited the said official, Master Adam (personally, if he can be found, or through his proctor, if he has one appointed, or by public notice made before his friends and acquaintances in the places where he is usually to be found), to appear before us in the convent church of our monastery aforesaid or before our commissary in that behalf, on the . . . day next after (die p'xio rarl'd pt) the feast of St. Gregory the Pope next to come, at the instance of the religious men aforesaid, to show precisely and peremptorily reasonable cause (if he have any) why we should not proceed against him as right demands, for such excessive temerity and presumption on his part, contrary to the tenor of the privileges of the religious men aforesaid, as is said above, and further to do and receive what justice demands. And at the said time and place you shall certify us or our commissary in this behalf how you or one of you has executed this our mandate, by the letters patent of you or one of you reciting the tenor of these presents. Given at Westminster 9 Kal. February [24 Jan.] 1328–9.

And by virtue of this mandate the abbot of Vale Royal caused the said sentences to be publicly revoked on three Sundays in the churches of Weverham, Frodesham and Overe, and he certified the abbot of Westminster thereof by his letters patent.

Now the aforesaid official had grounded his action on the decretals of Pope Innocent [IV] (Extra. De Privileg', c° Volentes), (fn. 1) not recollecting that Pope Alexander, successor to the said Innocent, had decreed that that decretal "Volentes" should cause no prejudice to our privileges, and so nothing new was added by that decretal, but otherwise he approved it; and approved it a second time, as says the gloss illius causa, Extra. de Privilegiis, c° Episcoporum. (fn. 2)

Afterwards a love-day was held between the official and Brother Arnold by the abbots of Dore and Vale Royal.


  • 1. In Sexto, lib. V, tit. vii, cap. 1.
  • 2. Ibid., cap. 8.