Difference between an abbey and a priory
Abbey Vs priory:
While the terms abbey and priory are used as synonyms by most people, these two terms have their individual significance in the Christian world which is the factor which sets them apart. This article therefore, seeks to distinguish those features at the same time, providing simple individual explanations of what an abbey and a priory are individually.
What is an abbey?
An abbey, a term derived from the Latin abbatia, which is derived from the Syriac abba which means “father” is a catholic convent or a dwelling place which is supervised by an abbess or an abbot. It is a place where priests or monks live, worship and conduct their day to day activities which is an ensemble of minor buildings or a complex of buildings which are comprised of a separate monastery or convent, a chapter house for private meetings, a novitiate, an infirmary, a conference room, a kitchen, a refectory a place of worship and other buildings. Each abbey is usually customized for specific purposes such as living, praying, grooming, training, etc.
An abbey is also sometimes referred to as a nunnery and yet, this term is not used today as it seems to indicate an abbey as a place that is reserved exclusively for nuns which is not true.
What is a priory?
Derived from the medieval Latin word priora which means monastery, a priory can be defined as a Christian convent or a monastery which is supervised by a prior who is considered as lower in rank than an abbess or an abbot. A priory thus is considered to be subsidiary to an abbey and yet, it serves the same function that an abbey does, providing a place of living and worship for monks, priests and nuns.
What is the difference between a priory and an abbey?
An abbey is led by an abbess or an abbot whereas a priory is led by a prior or a prioress. A prior is considerd as lower in rank to an abbess or an abbot and therefore, a prior is considered as subordinate to an abbey performing the functions of the abbey in remote corners of the country. Therefore, one can say that an abbey is located in a more prominent part of a city whereas priors are situated in far corners of the country.
An abbess or an abbot is often nominated by the nuns and the monks of the abbey and is often appointed by the Bishop of the diocese. Yet, a prior or a prioress is either chosen by the nuns and the monks of the prior itself or, he or she will be appointed under the will of the abbess or the abbot of the abbey that this particular prior belongs to. Also an abbess or an abbot are answerable to the pope whereas a prior or a prioress are answerable to the abbess or the abbot of their respective abbey.
An abbey must have at least 12 nuns or nuns to be classified as an abbey whereas a prior does not require such a thing.