Abbeys & Priories of Great Britain Volume 1 [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Linda Lee
eBook Category: History/Reference
eBook Description: During the twelfth century, great numbers of Norman abbeys and priories were founded in England, Wales and Scotland. By the mid-fourteenth century some 1,000 religious houses of varying denomination had been established. Today, less than one third of those exist in some form or other. This book explores 30 of these sites, some well known, others not, but all open to the public at certain times throughout the year. Each article comprises a colour photograph, an historical overview, and an information panel containing opening times, grid reference, address, telephone number, and web site details (where applicable).
eBook Publisher: Heritage Trail Publications Ltd
Fictionwise Release Date: March 2004
For the purpose of this excerpt the photograph and information table have been removed
Steeped in legend and history, Glastonbury Abbey has to be one of the most atmospheric of all the medieval ruined abbey sites. Situated just off the main high street, where many of the town's shops are selling mystical objects, the monastic ruins themselves seem charged with an almost tangible spiritual energy. Leaving the myths aside, the archaeological facts suggest that there was a settlement on this site as long ago as two thousand years, and documentary evidence confirms that the first monastery was in existence in the year 601. Some 120 years later, the triumphant Saxon King Ine of Wessex built a stone church that was later enlarged by the great Benedictine reformist, St Dunstan. He ruled as Abbot of Glastonbury from 940 to 956.
With the arrival of the Normans, and the great wealth of the abbey now established, plans were soon in hand to rebuild the monastery in grand style. Disaster struck in 1184 when a fire virtually destroyed the church and monastic buildings but, with financial help from King Henry II, reconstruction began almost immediately. Located at the west end of the church, the Lady Chapel was completed within five years, the remains today giving a hint of the magnificent Romanesque-style building, lavishly adorned with very fine carvings. Building continued for nearly two hundred years, and the finished abbey would surely have portrayed a splendour commensurate with its wealth and power. Throughout the Middle Ages, Glastonbury Abbey was the richest monastery in England, its annual income only occasionally less than that of Westminster Abbey. Prior to the great fire some seventy monks were living and working at Glastonbury, but by the end of the twelfth century this figure had decreased by a third, and remained in the region of 47 for the rest of its days. Sadly, the fate of Glastonbury Abbey was decided in 1539 at the Dissolution, following the execution of the Abbot and two of his monks on Glastonbury Tor.
With the exception of the mid-fourteenth century Abbot's kitchen which remains almost intact, and which has been arranged internally very much as it would have been six hundred years earlier, hardly any visible evidence remains of the monastic buildings. But there are fragmented sections of the vast church left to admire. The overall length of the abbey church was some 550ft (167m), but the interior of the nave has now been laid to lawn. Where parts of the massive Gothic structure have survived, it is not difficult to visualise how spectacular the building would have appeared. Even now, the honey-coloured stone fragments of the church display some very fine examples of the sumptuous carving that would once have saturated the monastic complex.
Despite its urban location, Glastonbury Abbey is an extremely peaceful and enchanting place, a place for reflection, and a place to contemplate the many legends surrounding the Isle of Avalon. Maybe this was the meeting place of the dead, perhaps there is some truth in the tale of Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Grail, and it might even be possible that King Arthur really did rescue his Queen Guinevere from the Tor. With little factual evidence to substantiate these claims, no-one can ever be certain what secrets lie buried within the ruinous site. Surely something out of the ordinary must have happened, because this holy site was known to have been visited by thousands. Perhaps it is the same spiritual magnetism that continues to attract annual pilgrimages to these gentle...