Catholic Dictionary




Priests who were canons of a cathedral or other church but took no public vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They said the Divine Office but were not religious. The canons formed a cathedral chapter and determined the character of the cathedral itself. Thus, if the canons were secular clergy, the cathedral was clergy diocesan; if they were religious, it was monastic. In medieval England, for example, there were two kinds of cathedrals, corresponding to the types of canons who administered the church. The nine secular foundations were those of Chichester, Exeter, Hereford, Lichfield, Lincoln, London, Salisbury, Wells, and York. There were eight religious foundations, namely, Canterbury, Durham, Ely, Norwich, Rochester, Winchester, and Worcester -- conducted by the Benedictines; and Carlisle, which was served by Augustinian canons.