RepositorySpecial Collections Archives (GB 0029)
Ref NoEUL MS 262/18
Datec 16th-17th century
Extent60 leaves
TitleA looking glace for the religious spiritual study of contemplation
A Translation of Louis of Blois’s ‘Speculum Monachorum’

This manuscript has sometimes been attributed to Richard Whitford (brother of Syon Abbey, d. c 1542), but is more likely to have been written in the 17th century. Presumably written by a brother of Syon Abbey.

205 x 137 mm
20th century binding
This manuscript was catalogued by the community in the 20th century and entered into a ‘Register of Syon Manuscripts’ (see EUL MS 262/add2/29)
Admin HistorySyon Abbey was a monastic house of the Order of the Most Holy Saviour, also known as the Bridgettine Order. The house was founded directly from the Mother House in Vadstena in Sweden in 1415, and the community followed the Rule of St Bridget of Sweden. This enclosed Bridgettine community - comprising both monks and nuns and governed by an abbess - was known for its dedication to reading, meditation and contemplation. In addition, it was unusual in being the only English Catholic community of religious to have continued existing without interruption through the Reformation period. In the wake of Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries, the community dispersed into smaller groups in which they continued their religious practice, with some remaining in England whilst others sought refuge abroad. Syon Abbey was restored for a short period in England under the Catholic rule of Mary I; however, following the accession of Elizabeth I and the return to Protestantism, the community went into exile. The community spent over half a century migrating through the Low Countries (Antwerp, Dendermonde, Haamstede, Mishagen, Mechelen) and France (Rouen), before eventually finding a new home in Lisbon, Portugal in 1594. In Lisbon, the community survived a convent fire in 1651 and the Lisbon Earthquake in 1755, but both events presumably resulted in the loss of many of Syon's early records. The last brother of Syon Abbey died in 1695. In 1809, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars, the community - with the exception of three sisters, who remained in Lisbon - attempted a return to England; however, by 1815, they were struggling financially, and eventually they relinquished many of their ancient treasures to the Earl of Shrewsbury in exchange for financial support (many of these treasures were auctioned at the The Great Sale of 1857 at Alton Towers). One sister returned to the community in Lisbon, whilst the last of the nuns in England died in 1837. Following the arrival of new postulants in the early nineteenth century, the community in Lisbon recovered and regained its strength. In 1861, amid rising religious tensions in Portugal, the community successfully returned to England, where they initially resided in Spetisbury, Dorset. Following a further relocation to Chudleigh, Devon, in 1887, the community finally settled in South Brent, Devon, in 1925. On account of dwindling numbers and the age of the remaining nuns, the decision was made to close Syon Abbey in 2011. In the same year, the archive was transferred to the University of Exeter, where it joined other previously deposited collections relating to Syon Abbey, including printed books and manuscripts from the Syon Abbey library. The community attracts considerable research interests throughout the world.
Access StatusOpen
ArrangementThis manuscript was formerly stored by the community of Syon Abbey with the manuscripts now catalogued as EUL MS 262/add2 (see gap at EUL MS 262/add2/18). It was listed by the community in the ‘Register of Syon Manuscripts’ as MS 18 (see EUL MS 262/add2/29). It may have deposited at the University with the eleven other early manuscripts in 2004 due to its value in potentially having been written by Brother Richard Whitford. There are no manuscripts missing between EUL MS 262/11 and EUL MS 262/18.
Creator_NameSyon Abbey; 1415-2011; Bridgettine
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