Kristo Buase Newsletter Archive

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Monastic History

I gather together here some short historical studies, mainly prepared for the novices at Kristo Buase Monastery. The first concerns the fifteenth century founder of the Subiaco-Cassinese Congregation, Ludovico Barbo, Bishop of Treviso. A shortened version of this paper was published in two issues of "Pluscarden Benedictines" in 2009. The title is "Ludovico Barbo and the Origin of the Congregation of Santa Giustina".


There is a short reading list of monastic classic texts on the Oblate page, this is a longer presentation of monastic writings available in English translation designed to accompany a course on Monastic History and Spirituality. The basic framework is provided by David Knowles' "Christian Monasticism".


The following file, "Don Hadriano Pio, First African Monk", is a shortened translation of an article by D. Giovanni Lunardi, published in "Sacro Speco" in 1972. He is an important figure for our Congregation and for Black History in general. D. Hadriano Pio was a freed slave, who returned to his native Sudan with St Daniel Comboni as a monk-missionary to his own people. He was the first African monk and priest of our Congregation.


Pluscarden Abbey Archive

Watercolour by Shanks,1812.

When the monks returned to Pluscarden in 1948 they acquired a considerable number of historical papers which had passed from one generation of owners to the next following the reformation. In 1955, the more important medieval charters were lodged with the John Rylands Library in Manchester for safe keeping. This is a descriptive list, copied from the Pluscarden archive:


Abbot Alfred Spencer visited Val des Choux, the mother house of the Valliscaulian order to which Pluscarden belonged, in the 1980s and brought back a collection of photocopies of French articles and photographs which are now in the Pluscarden archive. These French texts were used to compile this listing of all houses belonging to the Valliscaullian order with map references and tabulation of the main historical information:


In 1990, in preparation for the building of the new guesthouse at Pluscarden, an area to the west of the cloister garth was excavated by Historic Scotland. The following report was published in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. The short history of Pluscarden Priory in the Middle Ages is by Fr Ambrose. The article includes an architectural study of the medieval buildings of Pluscarden Priory by Richard Fawcett of Historic Scotland:


Archivio Sant'Ambrogio, Roma

The Subiaco-Cassinese Congregation's archive is housed at the Curia Generalizia, Via di S. Ambrogio, 3, 00186 ROMA, Italy.

This paper on the nineteenth century missions of the Congregation in territories of the British Empire was prepared for a conference at Subiaco to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Congregation's founder, Abbot Pietro Casaretto, and the 150th anniversary of the gift by Pope Pius XI of the former monastery of Sant'Ambrogio in central Rome as a Monastic Missionary College:


Below are transcripts of the most important documents relating to Australia (particularly relations with Archbishop Bede Polding in Sydney and the fate of the aborigine children sent to Italy. This set was transcribed from Italian manuscripts by D. Giuseppe Tamburino of Praglia, and from the English and French originals by Fr Ambrose:


There is a lot of unsorted material in the Sant'Ambrogio archive relating to the Subiaco Congregation's mission to Auckland, New Zealand, in the 1880s. While I was archivist, I was particularly hunting for information on Abbot Wilfred Luck and Fr Cuthbert Downey who both made monastic profession in Italy, worked on the Ramsgate mission in England, and ended up at St Benedict's, Newton, in New Zealand. The following are working notes based on the archival texts and printed material:




St Gregory's Priory, Kumasi, Archive (Anglican Benedictines in the Gold Coast)

The archive of Pershore Abbey / Nashdom Abbey / Elmore Abbey is now held at Douai Abbey, Upper Woolhampton, READING, Berkshire, RG7 5TQ.

'Fr Peter and the "Big Wigs" of Ashanti Scout Camp', Plate from The Golden Shore, Vol. 1 (1924)

Pershore Abbey (which later relocated to Nashdom Abbey, Buckinghamshire) had an Anglican Benedictine foundation in the Gold Coast from 1923 - 1931. In all, six monks were involved: Fr Dom Peter Harris, Fr Dom Dominic Carter, Fr Dom Martin Collett, Fr Dom Bernard Clements, Fr Dom Gregory Dix (at that time still only a regular oblate of the Nashdom community) and Fr Dom Francis Wheeler.

There was little stable community life: the monks had pastoral care of the Anglican community centred on St Cyprian's Church, Kumasi (with outstations throughout Ashanti); St Andrew's Church, Sekondi; Christ Church, Cape Coast. They also ran St Augustine's College, Kumasi, for the training of Anglican Priests.

This photo, a plate from the first volume of "The Golden Shore", shows the Anglican clergy of the Diocese of Accra at the Synod of Clergy, 13th January 1925. Fr Peter Harris, OSB, back row, 3rd from right; Fr Martin Collett, OSB, front row, 1st left; Fr Dominic Carter, OSB, front row, 2nd from right. Both photos from "The Golden Shore", Volume 1, 1925.

From 1957 - 1962, novices were moving from Ghana to Nashdom: Br Clement Ananie (from Ashanti), Br Francis Thompson (from Accra, later Bishop of Accra), and Fr Cyprian (Henry) Martin, an English Anglican priest who had been chaplain at St Monica's, Mampong - Ashanti, for eleven years. This photo shows Br Francis Thompson in the kitchen at Nashdom Abbey:

Some of the books from Nashdom Abbey Library were given to Kristo Buase Monastery at the time of our foundation. Both communities, Catholic and Anglican, derive ultimately from Aelred Carlyle's monastery on Caldey Island.

I am trying to write a history of this community from the contemporary sources. As a first step I will upload transcripts from the Pershore / Nashdom Quarterly Magazine "Laudate" relating to the African Foundation. I am grateful to Dom Simon Jarratt, Prior of the Elmore community which has now relocated to the Cathedral Close, Salisbury, for allowing me to make use of their archive materials.

The first volume of Laudate has an account of the monks' arrival in Kumasi in 1923, and some more photographs, including one of the interior of St Cyprian's Church, Kumasi at this time:


See also the 'Blog' for 19 Oct 2014 :

  • "Anglican Benedictines in the Gold Coast".