Tuesday 31 January 2017

Abbeys ~ and why I love them! #history

Confession time ~ I hold up my hands and admit that I have a thing about Abbeys and I always have. Why? you may ask. To be honest, I have absolutely no idea, but there it is...

Today, I wanted to share with you some of my favourite Abbeys that I have been too.


Rievaulx Abbey
(North Yorkshire) 

"Everywhere peace, everywhere serenity, and a marvellous freedom from the tumult of the world..." 
St Aelred on Rievaulx.

Impressive, isn't it?

In 1132, twelve, Clairvaux monks came to Rievaulx. This was to be the start of something very big. Rievaulx became one of the wealthiest monasteries in Medieval England.

Rievaulx had a very famous Abbot ~ Abbot Aelred. He was a renowned author and preacher, and this attracted a steady flow of monks to the Abbey. He died in 1167. But even without his presence,  Rievaulx continued to be a vibrant and busy Abbey.  Unfortunately, Rievaulx fell victim to Henry VIII, Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Easby Abbey
(North Yorkshire)

Founded in 1152, Easby, like many other Abbeys, was demolished during Henry VIII, Dissolution of the Monasteries. Unfortunately, this is going to be a common theme for this post.

I really liked Easby, It was a rather wet day when we visited the Abbey, and we found to our delight that we had the ruins all to ourselves.

Whitby Abbey
(North Yorkshire)

Whitby the "Goth" capital of Britain ~ thanks to Bram Strokes, Dracula.

Founded in AD 657 by King Oswy of Northumbria. It was at Whitby that the future of the English Church was decided. It was also the place where Northumbrian Kings and Saints were enshrined

Whitby Abbey suffered severe damage in 1914 when it was hit by German naval shelling. On top of that, years of rain and high winds, has taken its toll on this beautiful Abbey.

It was pouring down with rain the day we visited Whitby, but that did not take away the beauty of the place, and with views like this, it is easy to understand why Whitby attracts so many visitors and has been such an inspiration for artists over the years.

Lindisfarne Priory


I know, not quite an Abbey, but Lindisfarne Priory was one of the most important sites of early Christianity in England. It is also one of my favourite places to visit.

Oswald, King of Northumberland, summoned Aidan (an Irish monk from Iona) to be bishop of his kingdom in AD 635. Oswald granted Aidan and his followers a small tidal island called Lindisfarne.

Lindisfarne's most notable Bishop was a monk called Cuthbert. Cuthbert joined the monastery at Lindisfarne sometime in the 670s. He tried to impose Roman religious practices rather than Irish ones. This was met with grave opposition. Cuthbert decided to remove himself from the monastery and became a hermit. At first, he decided that a small island just a stone's throw away from the priory would do (having seen the island I did wonder what was going through his head at the time, it is really tiny), Cuthbert then removed himself to a more remote island of Inner Farne!

Cuthbert was made Bishop in 685.

On 8th June 703, the unthinkable happened...

"Pagans have desecrated God’s sanctuary, shed the blood of saints around the altar, laid waste the house of our hope and trampled the bodies of saints like dung in the streets … What assurance can the churches of Britain have, if St Cuthbert and so great a company of saints do not defend their own?"
Alcuin, a York scholar working at the court of King Charlemagne in Francia.

The Vikings first significant attack in Western Europe occurred at Lindisfarne and the rest, as they say, is history.

The priory was closed, during Henry VIII, Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537.

Jedburgh Abbey
(The Scottish Borders) 

Founded by David I in 1138, Jedbury Abbey is an Augustinians Abbey. Jedbury started life as a priory but was raised to the status of monastery in c.1147.

Alexander III of Scotland married Yolande, daughter of the Compte de Dreux, in 1285 at the Abbey.

Being in the borders, Jedbury Abbey had its fair share of dramas. In 1296, the Abbot of Jedburgh swore fealty to Edward I of England. The Abbey was pillaged in 1297 by the English as a retribution to their defeat at Stirling by William Wallace. Robert the Bruce was a patron of the Abbey during his reign. The English once again pillaged the Abbey in 1346 after the Scottish defeat at The Battle of Neville's Cross. Like the Bruce, David II of Scotland was also a patron of the Abbey. The Earl of Warwick caused more trouble for the Abbey in 1410, 1416 and again in 1464. The Earl of Surrey set the Abbey and the town on fire in 1523, and so it continued... It is amazing there is anything of the Abbey left standing. If walls could talk then, Jedbury Abbey could certainly tell a story or two.

I really liked Jedbury, and the history of the place is fascinating. Well worth checking out.

Melrose Abbey
(The Scottish Borders) 

Founded by Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne. Melrose Abbey was the first Cistercian abbey in Scotland. It is said that it took around ten years to build. At its peak, Melrose Abbey was the home of 100 monks.

Being in the borders meant that Melrose was in the firing-line the same as Jedbury Abbey was.

Interesting fact ~ Robert the Bruce's heart is said to be buried in the church.

I adore Melrose Abbey. Is is such a beautiful, tranquil place and it is easy to imagine what the Abbey must have been like in its heyday.

Glastonbury Abbey

In the 7th Century, the Saxons (who had converted to Christianity) conquered the ancient Kingdom of Somerset, and so it began...

Glastonbury Abbey weathered the storm, so to speak, and survived the Norman Invasion. By the 14th Century, Glastonbury Abbey was the second wealthiest Abbey in the country (second ony to Westminster Abbey).

It was said that Glastonbury Abbey was the burial place of King Arthur and Guinevere ( an elaborate story told by pragmatic monks, it turns out).

Glastonbury Abbey was caught up in Henry VIII Dissolution of the Monasteries, which should come as no surprise. In 1536 there were over 800 monasteries, nunneries and friaries in Britain. By 1541, thanks to Henry VIII, there were none. 

Cleeve Abbey

Cleeve Abbey is amazing. It boasts the most impressive and unaltered set of monastic cloisters in England ~ which considering Cleeve Abbey fell victim to yes, you guessed it, Henry VIII, Dissolution of the Monasteries; it is something to be thankful for!

This is such a beautiful Abbey and there is so much to explore, we spent a whole day here. 

Lacock Abbey

Founded in 1229 by Lady Ela the Countess of Salisbury. Lacock Abbey saw its first Augustinian nuns veiled in 1232. Lacock flourished during the Middle Ages and then came along, that is right, you guessed it, Henry VIII. Henry sold the Abbey to Sir William Sharington for £783. Sir William demolished the abbey church and converted the abbey into a house.

The Abbey has been used as a location for many films, Harry Potter and The Other Boleyn Girl, to name but a few.

And there we have it. Some of my favourite Abbeys. Now over to you ~ What is your favourite Abbey?

1 comment:

  1. I've always had a fascination with Arbroath Abbey. I can't explain why, but I find myself researching the place. Perhaps one day I'll be able to visit. Thanks, Mary Anne, for a beautiful post and pictures.


See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx