.componentheading1 { font-family: Verdana, Geneva, sans-serif !important; } .contentheading1 { font-family: Verdana, Geneva, sans-serif !important; }

Famous Abbeys Of England

    

Christianity arrived in England as early (and, perhaps, even earlier) than the second century of our Common Era (CE), although it remains a matter of dispute regarding who introduced it. Christian monasteries and convents are referred to as abbeys, which originally comes from Syriac abba, meaning ‘father’ in reference to God. An abbey is governed by an Abbot or Abbess, depending on whether it is a monastery (for men) or a convent (for women, also known as a nunnery). This person is the spiritual head of the institution. Even abbeys that are no longer in use are still referred to by the same name.

The earliest abbeys were crude structures, made out of natural materials and whatever else was available. Therefore, abbeys could be found hidden deep in caves, abandoned tombs or clusters of branches and leaves. Most of the formal abbeys were founded by Bishops, as well as princes and other nobles.

The abbeys founded in England were established largely because of the efforts of St Benedict, who was born in 480 CE and died in 543 CE. During his life, he initiated the major growth and profusion of abbeys throughout England, as well as surrounding countries (such as France, Italy and Spain). These were monasteries, built by the monks themselves. In some instances, the monks used buildings that had previously been used for idol worship, adapting these for their own Christian purposes. Under St Benedict’s influence and instruction, the monasteries (and abbeys thereafter) consisted of the:

• Oratory
• Dormitory
• Refectory (or dining room)
• Kitchen
• Workshops
• Storage cellars
• Infirmary
• Novitiate (used for training the novice monks)
• Guest house
• Conference room or chapter house
Image of the Towers of Westminster Abbey in the evening sun, London, England
The Towers of Westminster Abbey in
the evening sun, London, England

In general, the communities that stayed in the monasteries and convents have always been warm and hospitable, enthusiastically and sincerely welcoming visitors. This is seen as a social duty. Therefore, the guest accommodation and facilities at many abbeys, particularly those situated near to the highways of old, were abundant and impressive.

Those abbeys that became well known and respected throughout England were represented in Parliament through their superiors. These superiors held political esteem, despite their presumed neutrality as insisted upon in the Bible. During times of need (the Middle Ages, for example), those residents of the abbeys dispersed food and other goods to the poor village people. So, the abbeys played an integral part in the well-being of society at this time.

Because of their religious, cultural and historical value, the abbeys that remain intact are of enormous value to the local residents of England as well as to tourists visiting the country today.


Some of the best known abbeys that are still in existence are:

• Rievaulx Abbey in Rievaulx, Hemsley, North Yorkshire
• Battle Abbey in Battle, East Sussex
• Westminster Abbey in Westminster, London
• Buckfast Abbey in Buckfastleigh, Devon
• Glastonbury Abbey in Glastonbury, Somerset
• Whitby Abbey in Whitby, North Yorkshire
• Fountains Abbey in Fountains, Ripon, North Yorkshire
• Prinknash Abbey in Cranham, Gloucester, Gloustershire
• Sherborne Abbey in Sherborne, Dorset
• Whitby Abbey in Whitby, North Yorkshire
• Wall of Glastonbury Abbey in Glastonbury, Somerset