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Charterhouse - Carthusian Priory of St. Anne

Rear side of the Charterhouse Monastery Rear of the Charterhouse Monastery. (Photo: Steven Orland, 2013)

Alongside the River Sherbourne, just a few minutes walk down the London Road from Whitefriars' monastery, lies the monastery of St. Anne's Charterhouse. Although much of the currently standing building is not medieval, there are a few fragments remaining of the 15th century original.

After around four years of political uncertainty and problems surrounding land ownership, Coventry's Carthusian monastery finally had its foundation stone laid on the 6th September 1385 by King Richard II and his Queen, Anne of Bohemia. This high profile patronage gave the newly founded monastery the attention it required to attract much needed benefaction.

The monks who once lived there were of the Carthusian order, and the strict life they lead would make a prison sentence today appear like a stay in a luxury home! Each inmate lived by himself in a cell, which consisted of just two or three small rooms, and there he remained quiet and alone, dressed in the most minimal clothing, ate a most meagre diet (peas and fish being typical), and only met up with other brothers in the quire or for prayers in the chapterhouse. The remarkable thing about this, of course, was that it was a completely voluntary lifestyle, although it was perhaps eased somewhat by the fact that they did actually consume reasonable quantities of wine, and possibly ale, too. It seems quite unlikely that among this brotherhood you would have found many fat friars, but I cannot vouch for their sobriety!

North end of the Charterhouse Monastery North end of the Charterhouse Monastery

One minor myth exists about the derivation of the name of this monastery. There is no connection at all with the granting of charters on this house, but simply it is a corruption of "Chartreuse", because the first house of this Carthusian order was founded in the French Chartreuse mountains, eastern France.

Medieval wall surrounding the Charterhouse grounds Original medieval wall surrounding part of the Charterhouse grounds. (Photo: Steven Orland, 2005)

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