Difference Between Abbey and Priory (With Table)

Various religious practices may be found all throughout the world. Different religions have their own sets of ceremonies. Many religions have temples, churches, mosques, gurdwaras, and other places of worship. Sometimes practitioners can interact with other practitioners from several different religions in the same place.

There have been two religious structures in Christianity: abbey and monastery. Despite the fact that these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not interchangeable. The Christian monasteries of Abbey and Priory each have their unique significance in the faith.

Abbey vs Priory

The main difference between an abbey and a priory is that an abbey is governed by either an abbess or an abbot, but a priory is managed by a prior or indeed a prioress, who is subordinate to the abbess or abbot.

Difference Between Abbey and Priory

Abbey is a seminary that means “father” or “nunnery” in English. An abbey’s leader may be an abbess or an abbot. An abbey is a sacred religious edifice for Christians that serves as a gathering place for all religious activities. The term “abbey” is often applied to locations of religious institutions.

“Priory” is a monastic church that also means “seat” in English. It’s built in the Gothic style and was a Franciscan church built in the late 15th century. A prior or a prioress is the head of a priory. The priory’s leader is subject to the abbey’s head. It’s only a house of worship.

Comparison Table Between Abbey and Priory

Parameters of ComparisonAbbeyPriory
OriginAbbatia is the Latin word for Abbey.Cathedra is the Latin term for Priory
MeaningFather or Nunnery is the meaning of Abbey or Abbatia.The seat is referred to as a Priory or Cathedra.
HeadEither an abbess or an abbot is the abbey’s leader.A prior or a prioress is the leader of a priory.
CategoryAbbey resembles a monastery.A priory church is similar to a monastery church.
PurposeAbbey serves a variety of functions.The only purpose of the priory is for worship.

What is Abbey?

Abbey comes from the Latin term ‘abbatia,’ which also means ‘father’ or ‘nunnery.’

Abbey refers to a monastery, therefore they could be used alternatively. Depending on whether the leader is a Christian monk or even a nun, the leader is referred to as abbot or abbess. This is a monastery or convent where monks and nuns dwell. The monastic status of an abbot, as well as an abbess, is the same as the bishop.

The monks and nuns who live in an Abbey are cut off from the rest of society. They are solely accountable for the food that they consume and the clothing they put on. They also contribute to the betterment of society by assisting those in need. They also help humans find their path to divinity by guiding them and paving the route.

It is a monastery with a minimum of 12 monks. It is regarded as a sacred site by Christians. It is a location or structure where religious activities or tasks are performed. It has a variety of uses. The kind of building a monastery needs depends on whether it is a royal, a nunnery, or a parish church.

What is Priory?

The name priory is derived from the Latin word cathedra, which means “seat.” Priory is Abbey’s subordinate. A priory is a convent that houses both monks and nuns.

The leader of a priory is known as a prior or prioress, depending on who is in charge.  If the Prior is a woman, she is still called the Prioress because there is technically no male counterpart. A prior or even a prioress is an abbot’s or abbess’s subordinate, making them the equal of a bishop. A sort of cross is worn around the neck of the priory’s commander. The saint or savior on the cross that hangs around the neck of the nun is a badge of office.

A priory’s leader is chosen in one of two ways. One is a leader elected by the monks and nuns who vote for their preferred leader, while the other is a leader who is subject to the whims of the abbey’s head. It depends on the abbey where you are from as to which of these two methods you will hear about, as both are still being used at some monasteries.

A conventual priory, as well as a dependent priory, are the two sorts of priories. A conventual priory is indeed a self-contained priory, even though a dependent priory is one that is reliant on an abbey or motherhouse. Several religious fraternities call it home.

Main Differences Between Abbey and Priory

  1. Abbey comes from the Latin word “abbatia”, whereas Priory comes from the Latin term “cathedra”.
  2. In Latin, abbey refers to a father or monastery, whereas priory refers to a seat.
  3. An abbey is governed by such an abbess or an abbot. A priory is managed by a prior or a prioress, whereas A priory is managed by a prior or a prioress.
  4. An abbey is a holy site or a facility where religious activities are conducted, but a priory is a building or a place of worship exclusively.
  5. An abbess or maybe an abbot leads the monks and nuns of an Abbey, whereas a prior or even a prioress leads the monks and nuns of a Priory.
  6. An Abbey’s subordinate is a priory.


For Catholics, both the abbey and the priory constitute Christian religious establishments. These two words are frequently misunderstood, and they are often used interchangeably. These are buildings brimming with spirituality. Nuns and monks spend their lives are guiding others down the spiritual path and assisting those in need.

For religion, both structures are crucial. The buildings or constructions, as well as their purposes, differ. For example, an abbey is a dwelling for monks and nuns, whereas a priory is simply a house of worship.  While different, they are both religious structures in the same way that a building is. They’re monastery churches, after all. Both locations may accommodate the clergy or the nobility, and they could have similar functions


  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Z_wUAAAAQAAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR19&dq=Abbey+and+Priory&ots=j7kLxpB_Sb&sig=U9y_8hWeF9zpXSODfz8n3l_UGGs
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00681288.1894.11888363