Meetings & Events: Study Days

Lesnes Abbey

10 Jun 2024

 Lesnes Abbey was founded by Henry II’s chief justiciar, Richard de Lucy, in 1178. De Lucy retired into it, died there in 1179 and was buried in the chapter house. The de Lucy family continued to patronise the abbey, and it served as their burial house. The abbey was dedicated to St Thomas Becket. Thus the foundation reflects unease about – and appropriation of – the martyrdom of Thomas Becket in Angevin court circles. The magnificent surviving Missal from the abbey, now in the V&A, produced around 1200, reflects both de Lucy family patronage and their interest in Thomas Becket. The Missal is illuminated, contains liturgies for Becket, musical notation, and obits for members of the de Lucy family. Richard de Lucy appears to have chosen an unusual order for his abbey: Arrouaisian canons, from north-eastern France. The abbey itself is mainly reduced to footings, but is nonetheless an important and revealing site, in an evocative position above what must have been marshlands in the Thames estuary. 

The study day will take place in two parts. In the morning, we will visit the site of the abbey to discuss the archaeological remains. Discussion of the site will be led by Richard Halsey and Dr David Robinson, and by Dr Hugh Doherty on the de Lucy patronage. In the afternoon, the study day will move to the V&A, where we will be able to see the Lesnes Missal, which will be taken out of its display case for us to see it properly. Discussion of the Missal will be led by Dr Rowan Watson and Dr Catherine Yvard. The V&A also holds a fine tomb of a later member of the de Lucy, c. 1300. This will be presented to the Study Day by Dr Michaela Zoschg. 

Lesnes provides an unusual opportunity to consider the architecture, liturgy, and spatial configuration of a house of Augustinian canons, of an unusual and ascetic branch, founded as a result of well-documented high level court patronage, with a strongly political tinge. BAA Study Day at Lesnes Abbey