Bath Abbey, Somerset

Benedictine Nuns then Monks

In a City so full of architectural wonders as Bath it is surprising perhaps that the Abbey has had such a chequered and neglectful existence.

It was founded around 676 for nuns of the Benedictine Order who were replaced by monks in 758. The Abbey was destroyed by the Danes and rebuilt in 963 only to be sacked again in 1087 and refounded once more the following year.

In 1107 it was a Cathedral-Priory with a Diocese shared by nearby Wells, but by 1476 the buildings were in such a poor state that the Diocese was moved to fully to Wells where it has remained ever since, despite bearing the title "Bishopric of Bath and Wells".

Yet another new church was begun in 1499 using only a tiny proportion of the older building. By the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries the building was not completed and the half-finished structure was offered to the people of Bath for 500 marks (about £350). They said "No, thank you" and the building was stripped for it's materials.

It became private property and was given in 1560 to the City for use as a parish church. This marked a long period of rennovation which resulted in more or less the building we see today being completed around 1616, although finishing touches were still being made in 1869!

Today the Abbey forms the background to a million photos of the Roman Baths which have come to overshadow it in the minds of the tourists who throng to the beautiful streets of Bath ever year.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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