Ex mayor’s book on historic Lewes priory

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A former Mayor of Lewes has written an eagerly-anticipated book about the town’s priory.

The Monks of Saint Pancras, by historian Dr Graham Mayhew, will be hot off the press this month.

The study, the only one ever undertaken of an English Cluniac monastery, outlines the history of Lewes Priory from its foundation to its destruction, using a wide range of archival sources from local and national repositories as well as the evidence of existing buildings and archaeological remains in England and France.

Lavishly illustrated with 30 maps and plans, 171 colour photographs and eight reconstruction drawings it explores Lewes Priory’s contribution to Romanesque art and architecture, its liturgy, dependent monasteries, its estates and more than 160 parish churches and chapels throughout England from Yorkshire to the Midlands and East Anglia.

It also features the diet, education and careers of its monks and the role of the Prior of Lewes as acting deputy to the Abbot of Cluny in England. With one of the finest Romanesque churches in England, more than 100 resident monks, six English dependencies and two in Normandy as well as two independent daughter houses – Thetford Priory and Reading Abbey, for which Lewes provided three of its first five abbots – Lewes Priory was one of the greatest monasteries in medieval England.

By the early 12th century it had grown rapidly to be the wealthiest of any English monastery founded after the Norman Conquest. At the end of the 13th century it was the largest wool producer of any monastery in England and played a significant role in the development of sheep farming on the South Downs.

Under its first prior, Lanzo, renowned for his saintliness, Lewes attracted many pilgrims and donors including most of the leading members of Henry I’s court as well as from the king himself .

The priory also received at least 19 visits by reigning monarchs, from Henry I to Henry VII. One of Lewes Priory’s proteges, John Peckham, went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury while another, Elias of Dereham, is credited with the building of Salisbury Cathedral, a pioneering work of early English architecture.

The Monks of Saint Pancras can be pre-ordered from the middle of this month using the form from http://www.cluniac-priory-st-pancras-lewes-de-warenne-foundation-research.co.uk/index.htm

Signed copies of the book will also be available from the foyer of Lewes Town Hall from December 2-6, 10am-4pm, and during the Lewes Late Night Shopping event.