The University of Scranton Historian Researches Medieval "Pardons of Syon Abbey"


Robert W. Shaffern, Ph.D., professor of history at The University of Scranton, spent a week of the fall semester in London studying a fifteenth-century treatise currently held in the manuscript collection of the British Library. The treatise he is studying was written at Syon Abbey near London.

A Bridgettine double convent that housed both nuns and monks, the Syon Abbey was built by King Henry V and frequented by Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of King Henry VIII. According to Dr. Shaffern, the Syon Abbey became well known for its preachers and its library rich in devotional and theological works.

“Syon Abbey was spiritual capital of England in the fifteenth century,” said Dr. Shaffern, who is researching a treatise that was quite unusual for its day.

“This particular treatise was written in Middle English. The dimensions of the manuscript (about the size of a modern paperback) tells me that it was intended for personal use,” said Dr. Shaffern. He explained that during the fifteenth century treatises were generally written in Latin, and that many manuscripts were much larger than the one he is studying.

“This treatise was intended to be more accessible. Furthermore, since it was written in Middle English, a female readership must have also been in mind,” said Dr. Shaffern.

Dr. Shaffern plans to publish the treatise through The University of Scranton Press. The book-in-progress is entitled The Pardons of Syon Abbey.

During his stay, Dr. Shaffern also attended tea in the House of Lords at the invitation of Lord David Alton of Liverpool. Lord Alton came to Scranton at Dr. Shaffern’s invitation to present a Catholic Studies Lecture at the university in 2002. His talk concentrated on responsible citizenship.

Back to Top