St. Edmundsbury Abbey, Suffolk

Benedictine Monks

It is hard to picture it today, but St. Edmundsbury Abbey was second in importance only to Glastonbury in medieval times.

The Abbey was founded to house St. Edmund's remains in 633 and then refounded in 1020 when it became East Anglia's most importance pilgrimage site.

Despite its riches the Abbey had a very bumpy ride through its working lifetime. In 1327 the townsfolk revolted, sacked the Abbey and kidnapped the Abbot. In 1381 the Abbey was sacked again and looted during the Peasants' Revolt. In 1430 the tower of the Abbey Church collapsed and in 1465 a disastrous fire destroyed half the buildings.

The whole was rebuilt again and the last years until the Dissolution were fairly peaceful. However, the Dissolution was meted out very heavily at St. Edmundsbury and not a great deal was left of the main Abbey buildings.

What did survive more or less in one piece were the two wonderful gatehouses, St. John's Tower - tall thin and elegant and dating to the 12th Century - and the impressively decorated Great Gate which dates from the 14th Century.

The rest of the Abbey remains stand in an immaculately manicured garden in genteel and pleasant surroundings that typify Bury St. Edmunds.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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and Shaun Runham
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