History of Religious Orders

Photo taken by Charlotte Thomas

Photo taken by Charlotte Thomas


“This window commemorates the Religious Orders of men who have served the Catholic of Swansea people of the city centre during the long history of Swansea.

In the trefoil at the top there are the arms of the Papacy, the head of all Religious Orders. The first one portrayed is the Knight Templar, a military order of monks who were supressed in 1312. An interesting connection with them is that Father Plowden, in a letter 1813 to the Jesuit Provincial, writes of renting a room in the old church of the Templars in order to Say Mass. This was probably a little exaggerated as investigation would seem to indicate he had rented a room in Temple Street, where the Castle Gardens are now, which was property originally owned by the Templars rather than a church.

After the suppression of the Templars their property passed into the hands of the Knights Hospitallers often called the Knights of Rhodes or the Knights of Malta.

Their Church was the church which is now St Matthews, near the railway station, which had the title of St John until the nineteenth century when a new church was built up in the Hafod and the title transferred.

After the horrors of the Protestant Reformation, and the suppression of all the Religious Orders in Great Britain, all Catholic priests went underground as to be a Catholic priest was punishable by death. You can see from the list of priests at the back of the church who secretly, during the days of persecution, ministered to the Catholics in this area. Amongst them were numbered the Franciscans and the Jesuits.

In 1873 Benedictine monks of Douai came to serve this church and in 1972 the Benedictine monks of Belmont took over this service.”

Knights Templars were one of the most wealthy and powerful of Christian religious military orders. Officially endorsed by the Church in 1129, the Order became a favoured charity throughout Christendom and grew rapidly in membership and power. Due to its status as a military order it is closely linked with the Crusades of Middle Ages. The organisation existed for nearly two centuries till it was disbanded in 1312 by Pope Clement V.

Similar to the Templars, Knights Hospitallers were one of the most famous of the religious military orders. The Order was founded around 1023 by Blessed Gerard Thom. Due to their association with Amalfitan hospital in Jerusalem, they provided care for the poor, sick and injured pilgrims to the Holy Land. During the first Crusade, in 1099 they became a religious and military order under its own Papal charter and were charged with the care and defence of the Holy Land. The order was weakened by the Reformation and eventually was disestablished in England. However, the Order is still present in the modern day.

Franciscan Order adheres to the teachings and spiritual discipline of Saint Francis of Assisi. Although supressed in the Reformation in England, this Order is still active today.

The Jesuits, also known as the Society of Jesus, was founded in 1540 by Ignatius of Loyola after being approved by Pope Paul III. The Order professed vows of poverty, Chastity, and later obedience, including a special vow of obedience to the Pope. The Society participated in the Counter-Reformation and later in the implementation of the Second Vatican Council. Like the previous Orders it still exists and its headquarters is in Rome.

The Order of Saint Benedict, or Black Monks, as their habit were black, is a religious order of independent monastic communities that observe the Rule of Saint Benedict. Within the Order, each community maintains its own autonomy, while the organisation as whole exists to represent their mutual interests. During the Reformation, their abbeys were dissolved and their members fled into exile on the Continent. However, the Order was allowed to return to England and Wales during the nineteenth century. Benedictine monks of Douai and Benedictine monks of Belmont are both English communities of the Order of Saint Benedict in Berkshire and Herefordshire.


Click here to go to the history of the Catholic Church and click here for Catholic Hierarchy.


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