Bath Abbey - History and Facts | History Hit

Bath Abbey

Bath, England, United Kingdom

Bath Abbey was built from the late fifteenth century, destroyed by Henry VIII and restored under Elizabeth I.

Lily Johnson

15 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey is a magnificent 16th century church built on the site of a once-vast Norman cathedral, and has been at the centre of religious activity in the area for over one thousand years. Though ruined during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it was soon restored by Elizabeth I and more recently by the City of Bath in the 19th century, helping to create the glorious site as it is found today.

Bath Abbey history

The first church to be built on the site of Bath Abbey was a 7th century Anglo-Saxon convent, followed by a monastery renown for its beautiful architecture. After the Norman invasion however, this was torn down in 1090 and replaced by a grand Norman cathedral, with the Bishopric of Bath soon established.

By the late 15th century, the upkeep of the Norman cathedral became too onerous, causing it to fall into disrepair. In 1499, a new church was thus ordered to be built by Bishop Oliver King, from which the modern day church derives. Only a few years after its completion however, Bath Abbey was ruined during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII in 1539. Much of the building was stripped, including its roof and windows, and left to decay.

The restoration of Bath Abbey soon took place under Queen Elizabeth I, when it was established as the parish church of Bath. Further restorative works were undertaken in the 19th century, in which the design of the towers was changed and flying buttresses were added, along with new galleries and extra seating inside. In 1863, the wooden ceiling was replaced by the magnificent stone fan vaulting seen today.

Bath Abbey today

Today, Bath Abbey represents a mixture of its many different restorative projects over the years. A number of its 16th century features may still be viewed on its west front, such as the ornately carved West Door and large arched window. Inside, much of the 19th century restoration efforts may be viewed, including the beautifully detailed vaulted ceiling overhead.

With a total of 52 windows that occupy around 80% of its wall space, Bath Abbey can’t help but exude a bright and illustrious atmosphere, particularly when the sun shines through its vast amounts of stained glass.

For those with a strong stomach, visitors can also climb the 212 steps of Bath Abbey’s tower, stand behind its clock face, and enjoy fantastic views of the city. For those who prefer to stay on solid ground, guided tours are available, lasting approximately 45-50 minutes.

Getting to Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey is located in Bath, following the A46 off the M4. The nearest carpark is at the Podium in Northgate Street, a 5-minute walk away, while Bath also operates a Park and Ride service into the centre. The closest bus stop is at Guildhall, a 1-minute walk away, while Bath Spa train station is also a 10-minute walk away.

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