The paper examines the role of cults of saints between c. 1350 and 1500 in Ebrach Abbey and its daughter houses in their different forms – the absorption and development of cults which pre-dated Cistercian presence in the area, but also development of new cults associated with the Cistercian community as well evidence for an interest in the holy figures adopted from outside the region. Both textual and visual (reliquaries, altarpieces) evidence will be considered to explain how engagement with the cult of saints became a part of Cistercian identity, but also provided a new facet of the monastic relationship with the laity.
Since their origins in the 12th century, English Cistercian nunneries had few interactions with the Cistercian General Chapter or with official representatives of the Cistercian Order. While there were some interactions in the 13th century, towards the end of the Middle Ages we begin to see more instances in which issues concerning English Cistercian nunneries were investigated by Cistercian national commissioners of England and by the General Chapter in France. The 15th-century case study of Cook Hill nunnery in Worcestershire provides a good example of these growing links, as does the example of Marham nunnery in Norfolk. The later Middle Ages was a time of reform for the Cistercian Order, and it is interesting to note that the matters under debate concerning English nunneries were precisely those at issue in the wider Cistercian reform debates. We can see, then, that towards the end of the Middle Ages Cistercian commissioners and the General Chapter understood Cistercian reform to be something involving both monks and nuns, and something involving the English Cistercian nuns who for centuries had otherwise been left to gain their monastic guidance from local sources rather than from national or international sources. As well as looking from the perspective of the commissioners and the General Chapter, this paper will also look from the perspective of the nuns themselves, and in so doing will investigate the extent to which different members of the Cistercian Order might (or might not) have held differing understandings of Cistercian life.