Dissolution of the Monasteries

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"Suppression of Monasteries," Catholic Encyclopedia, In 1783, in the Hapsburg domains,

their revenues were taken to increase the salaries of the secular priests or for pious establishments useful to religion and humanity. The dioceses of the Low Countries (then subject to the House of Hapsburg) lost one hundred and sixty-eight convents, abbeys, or priories. In all, 738 religious houses were suppressed in the Empire during the reign of Joseph II.

In anticipation of this disaster, Pius VI had conferred on the bishops extensive privileges. They had power to dispense expelled religious, both men and women, from wearing their habit, and, in case of necessity, to dispense them from the simple vows. They were to secure for them a pension—but, as this was generally insufficient, many were reduced to poverty. The Government transformed the monasteries into hospitals, colleges, or barracks....The Abbey of Melk (q.v.) was spared; some of the suppressed houses were even affiliated to it; but on the death of Abbot Urban I (1783), the emperor placed over the monks a religious of the Pious Schools as commendatory abbot. The monasteries of Styria were soon closed, though some houses—e.g., Kremsmunster, Lambach, Admont—escaped the devastation. ...

in October, 1835, a decree of the Government, inspired by Juan de Mendizabal, minister of finance, again suppressed all the monasteries in Spain and its possessions. The Cortes, which had not been consulted, approved of this measure next year, and promulgated a law abolishing vows of religion. All the movable and immovable property was confiscated and the income assigned to the sinking fund. Objects of art and books were, in general, reserved for the museums and public libraries, though many of them were left untouched, and many others dispersed. Large quantities of furniture and other objects were sold, the lands and rights of each house alienated, while speculators realized large fortunes. Certain monasteries were transformed into barracks or devoted to public purposes. Others were sold or abandoned to pillage.

[Spain] In 1859 the Government gave to the bishops those religious houses which had not already been disposed of. Numerous conventual churches were turned over for parish use....The religious orders which supplied the clergy for the Spanish colonies, such as the Dominicans, Augustinians, and Franciscans, were authorized to retain some houses. The monasteries in Portugal met the same fate as those in Spain, and at about the same time (1833). Only the Franciscans charged with religious duties in the Portuguese colonies were spared....

...suppressed, in his own states alone, 334 convents and monasteries, containing 4280 religious men and 1200 nuns. This ruin and depredation proceeded uniformly with the cause of Italian unity, since the Piedmontese constitution and legislation were imposed on the whole peninsula. The religious orders and benefices not charged with cures of souls were declared useless, and suppressed; the buildings and lands were confiscated and sold (1866). The Government paid allowances to the surviving religious. In some abbeys—as at Monte Cassino—the members of the community were allowed to remain as caretakers. The Papal States were subjected to the same policy after 1870.