Monasteries date back to the 4th century in Egypt, where the Christian religion was spread. Monks, at the time, lived a life of solitude and lived alone, holding meetings in a common chapel. The expansion of monasteries started to spread rapidly in the 5th century, with much of Ireland seeing a major rise in the number of monasteries.
Irish monks then brought monasteries into Wales, Scotland and Cornwall.
Western Europe would see several monasteries built between the 6th and 11th century. Æthelberht asked the pope to send missionaries to England in 596. Pope Gregory I sent Augustine and a party of monks at this request. Augustine served in Rome at Saint Andrews.
Augustine was commanded to go to the Island of Thanet in 597 before Æthelberht allowed the missionaries to settle in Canterbury. The settlement would first be in Saint Martin’s Church and then in an area now known as St. Augustine’s Abbey.
King Edgar would be responsible for monks coming into prominence during his reign, which lasted from 959 through 975. Edgar would replace the clergy from monasteries and cathedral chapters and replace them with monks.
Monks would continue to grow in popularity following the Norman Conquest. The conquest led to William the Conqueror building up many parishes and monasteries. He would help spread the importance of the monasteries, which led to more monks in England.
Bishops would rise in power, but monks and nuns would remain humble.
Monks would often be seen giving food to the poor, offering shelter to the homeless and helping others along their pilgrimage. Monks and nuns would also help create many local hospitals to provide medical care to those that were injured or sick.
Monks would gain control of most monasteries following the Norman conquest.
Reformation would begin in the 16th century under the rule of Henry VIII. Henry VIII decided it was time to break ties with Rome after the pope refused to grant him a divorce from his wife Catherine. An angry Henry would take control of the church and make many reforms along the way.
Monasteries, the key symbol of Catholicism in the medieval time, were then closed and their lands were sold off. Many monks had to flee or lost their way of life, as the reform changed the lives of monks forever.
Edward VI, a protestant and son of Henry, truly reformed the church. He abolished many sacraments, changed the rituals of mass and even changed the rites of the dead.