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Advowson. The advowson was the right to appoint the clergyman to fill a specific position in the Church. In a parish church, a local lord or noble often held the advowson; before the Reformation, many monasteries also held advowsons of parish churches. Some still remain in the hands of cathedrals and Oxford and Cambridge university colleges. In cathedrals and collegiate churches, the local bishop held the advowsons of the dignitaries and canons who made up the chapter.

Bishop. From the Greek Episcopos, meaning 'overseer' or 'supervisor', the bishop was the highest-ranking clergyman in a diocese. His duties included administration and discipline of the clergy and people under his care. Bishops alone had and have the power of ordination, conducting the religious rites that make a layperson into a deacon or priest.

Canon. A confusing term with many meanings. Canon law refers to the internal law of the Church. Canon can also refer to a member of the clergy who holds a prebend or dignity at a cathedral or other secular collegiate church. A canon resident is one of these dignitaries or prebendaries who spends much of his time in residence at that church, participating in the daily cycle of services. Each cathedral or secular collegiate church set its own standards for the number of residentiaries and how frequently they were expected to attend services. It was common for an individual to be a canon at several cathedral or collegiate churches at the same time, creating a network of high-status clergy.

Cathedral. Each diocese has one church (or occasionally two) that is officially the bishop's flagship. It is called the cathedral because it is where the cathedra, or bishop's throne, sits. The cathedral chapter also had the right to elect the bishop, though commonly the king or queen dictated whom they would elect. Before the Reformation, some English cathedrals were monasteries, which was rare elsewhere; these were transformed into secular (non-monastic) cathedrals at the Reformation. All four Welsh cathedrals were already secular.

Chapter. The body of clergy, both dignitaries and prebendaries, who governed a cathedral or collegiate church. Such a church often had other clergy who were not members of the chapter. Both before and after the Reformation, the men of the choir, called vicars choral, were normally clergy, but they were not members of the chapter. When a cathedral or collegiate church also served as a parish church, the parishioners had a priest called the parochial vicar, who would be appointed and supervised by the chapter but would not be a member of it.

Collegiate church or College. A type of church foundation, common in the Middle Ages, to which numerous secular clergy are attached. Each cleric holds a dignity or prebend. Many cathedrals were collegiate churches, but not all collegiate churches were cathedrals. Some were under direct royal jurisdiction, such as the Chapel Royal, which carried out daily services for the royal household. Some served as ancillary cathedrals: in addition to York Minster, his actual cathedral, the Archbishop of York often held major services such as ordinations at the three large collegiate churches in his diocese, at Beverley, Ripon, and Southwell. Between 1653 and 1710, three bishops of St Davids were buried at Brecon rather than at their cathedral, an indication of its high status in the diocese. In most cases, the bishop had the advowsons (rights of appointment) of the clergy. Typically, he would appoint members of his administrative staff to positions at his cathedral and any collegiate churches in his diocese. This allowed him to support them financially without having to pay them out of his own pocket. Some, known as canons resident, would be present much of the time to carry out the daily round of services, while others would normally be elsewhere, serving as administrators of church and state. It was very useful for the collegiate church and the bishop to have well-placed absentee clergy who could advocate on their behalf when they needed something from the archbishop, king, or pope.

Dean. The title normally held by the highest-ranking dignitary of a secular cathedral or other collegiate church.

Dignitary. Each secular cathedral or collegiate church has a hierarchy of clergy. Those who hold the leading positions are called dignitaries. In most cases, these are the Dean, Precentor, Chancellor, and Treasurer, but prior to church reforms in the 1830s, each secular church also had its own idiosyncrasies. At St Davids Cathedral, for example, there was no Dean until 1840, so the Precentor was the highest-ranking member of the chapter.

Diocese. The district under the religious jurisdiction of a bishop. A diocese is sometimes also called a see. Abergwili and Brecon sat within the Diocese of St Davids.

Friar. A member of one of several Catholic religious orders. While monks (in theory) stayed separate from the world, living in their monasteries and focusing on prayer, the orders of friars intentionally spent much time out of their houses and churches, circulating among the people to preach sermons and hear confessions. The two largest orders of friars were the Friars Preachers (commonly called the Dominicans) and the Friars Minor (commonly called the Franciscans). Both of these orders were founded in the early 1200s and arrived in the British Isles in the 1220s. The orders of friars are sometimes called mendicants, from the Latin term for beggars. While monasteries and secular churches could become very wealthy, the orders of friars avoided acquiring large endowments to keep themselves dependent upon God and the good will of the people, from whom they often had to ask for small donations. The church at Brecon had been built by the Friars Preachers in the mid-1200s and was used by them until 1538.

Letters Patent. A type of public declaration issued by an authority (most commonly a monarch). Letters Patent usually contain some type of grant of rights or property; in this way they are a type of charter. They are 'Patent' in the sense of 'open', as opposed to 'Letters Close', which are private communications sent out rolled up and closed with a small wax seal. Royal Letters Patent were issued under the Great Seal, a large wax seal that was reserved for the most important documents. For a surviving example of the Great Seal of King Henry VIII, identical to the one that once graced the Letters Patent founding Christ College Brecon, see

Mendicant. See Friar.

Patent Rolls. The royal chancery, the office that prepared and issued documents for the king, kept file copies of Letters Patent. These were written on long rolls made of a series of pieces of parchment stitched together. Each roll is approximately 11 inches wide and can be upwards of 50 feet in length. They are awkward to work with and are commonly very dirty from centuries of infiltration of London air carrying carbon particles from coal fires. Today, these are kept at The National Archives at Kew, west of London, under the classification mark C 66. The manuscript designated Witness R in this project is C66/709.

Prebend. In a collegiate or cathedral church, the institution was made up of a set number of positions for clergy. Each position, called a prebend was permanently endowed with a source of income, normally drawn either from a piece of property, such as a farm, or from a share in the revenues of a wealthy parish church. In most cases, such as at Abergwili/Brecon, each prebend had a name that corresponded to the source of its income, though there are some exceptions, such as the six unnamed 'cursal canonries' at St Davids Cathedral. A cleric who held a prebend was called a prebendary.

Residentiary. See Canon.

Secular clergy. In the Catholic Church (which includes the English and Welsh Church before the Reformation), clergy are of two types: regular and secular. Regular clergy were those who had joined a monastic or other religious order, such as the Benedictine monks or the Franciscan friars. All other clergy, such as parish priests, are called secular clergy. In this context, secular does not mean 'worldly' or 'not religious'; it means 'engaged with the world' as opposed to being locked away in a monastery.

For further reading, see:

Lehmberg, Stanford. English Cathedrals: A History (London and New York, 2005).

Edwards, Kathleen. The English Secular Cathedrals in the Middle Ages (Manchester, 1949).

Williams, Glanmor. Renewal and Reformation: Wales c. 1415-1642 (Oxford and New York, 1993).

Jeffery, Paul. The Collegiate Churches of England and Wales (London, 2004).