Saints and Sinners: A Millennium of Monasteries

Saints and Sinners: A Millennium of Monasteries

This is a story of faith, sacrifice, violence and corruption. Art historian Janina Ramirez discovers how monasteries shaped all aspects of medieval Britain and created a dazzling array of art, architecture and literature. She explores how they evolved from a cult of Christianity involving extreme isolation and self-deprivation into powerhouses of Anglo-Saxon art, industry and learning.

Watch Saints and Sinners: A Millennium of Monasteries and more acclaimed documentaries on BBC Select today. Restrictions apply*.

Saints and Sinners: A Millennium of Monasteries on BBC Select

Episode 1: Formation
How the harsh lives led by early monks led to some of the most wondrous art in history.

Skellig St Michael, off the east coast of Ireland, is home to the oldest surviving monastery in the British Isles. Janina Ramirez visits this desolate rock and investigates the harsh lives led by these early monks. These monasteries soon became beacons of civilization, Christianity and literature in the barbaric Anglo- Saxon world, creating some of the most wondrous works of art in history.

Episode 2: Establishment
How medieval monasteries transformed society and rose to a position of immense power.

The golden age of the British monastery was during the medieval period, when monks transformed British society and rose to positions of immense power. Far from the inward-looking recluses of legend, monks were exceptionally creative and became pioneers in the fields of medicine, science, art and music. They didn’t turn their back on the medieval world but helped transform it.

Episode 3: Destruction
How the immensely rich and powerful monasteries were annihilated in less than five years.

In the 15th century, 800 monasteries in England owned one-third of the nation’s land. Many monks lived in luxury and were patrons of the finest art and architecture. Dr Janina Ramirez discovers how the immensely rich and powerful monasteries that had dominated British history and society were annihilated in less than five years with the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII.

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