Malmesbury Abbey

From Academic Kids

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The Abbey in the 14th century. Only the brightened area is now used, following collapses of the spire and West Tower.
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The main entrance (the South Porch) seen from the graveyard. This picture shows the modern extent of the Abbey.
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The Abbey interior. The ruined area lies beyond the blank wall rising above the altar.
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Interior of the Abbey, showing the unusual watching-loft projecting above the nave (click on the picture to read what the loft may have been used for). The wall levels, top to bottom, are the clear windows of the clerestory, the rounded arches of the triforium (windowless at Malmesbury) and the pointed arches of the nave arcading.

Malmesbury Abbey, at Malmesbury in Wiltshire, England, was founded as a Benedictine monastery in c.676 AD by Aldhelm, a nephew of King Ina of Wessex. In 941 AD, King Athelstan was buried in the Abbey. By the 11th century it contained the second largest library in Europe and was considered one of the leading European seats of learning. It is dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

The Abbey was largely completed by 1180 AD. The 130m tall spire, and the tower it was built upon, collapsed in a storm in c.1500 destroying much of the church, including two thirds of the nave and the transept. The west tower fell in c.1550, demolishing the three western bays of the nave. As a result of these two collapses less than a half of the original building stands today.

The Abbey was closed at the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 by Henry the 8th and was sold, with all its lands, to William Stumpe, a rich merchant. He returned the Abbey to the town for continuing use as a church. Today the Abbey is in full use as the parish church of Malmesbury, in the Diocese of Bristol.

During the English Civil War it was the site of a massacre of Roundheads by Parliamentarians, the pock marks left by bullets can still be seen on the walls.

The Abbey was the site of an early attempt at human flight when, in 1010, Monk Eilmer of Malmesbury flew a primitive hang glider from an Abbey tower. Eilmer flew over 200 yards before landing, breaking both legs. He later remarked the only reason he did not fly further was the lack of a tail on his glider.

Today much of the Abbey survives. The existing third of the nave has been restored as an active place of worship and there are plans to build a visitor centre on the site. No charge is made for visitors to view the interior of the abbey. no:Malmesbury Abbey


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