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Tewkesbury Abbey

Tewkesbury Abbey - Medieval England - Middle Ages History - Medieval History - ArchitectureAs one of the most recognizable religious buildings in England, Tewkesbury Abbey stands along the river Avon on a site possibly once occupied by an 8th century Benedictine monastery. In the year 1087, King William gave the Manor of Tewkesbury to Robert FitzHamon, and in 1092, Robert and the Abbot Giraldus founded the abbey.

Tewkesbury has two prominent architectural styles: the eight-bay nave (completed in 1121) with Norman piers and arches, and the Decorated-style chancel, which still contains the original medieval windows. The abbey’s long nave, including its Romanesque tower, is one of the longest and most magnificent in all of England. Even though the abbey was founded in 1092, construction of the present abbey did not actually begin until 1102. Tewkesbury was consecrated in the year 1121.

After Robert Fitzhamon’s death in 1107, Robert’s son-in-law, Robert Fitzroy, took over the building project. Fitzroy was the illegitimate son of King Henry I and the first Earl of Gloucester.

One of the greatest patrons of the abbey was the Lady Eleanor le Despenser of the de Clare family, who were heirs of FitzRoy.

The famous Battle of Tewkesbury during the Wars of the Roses was fought near this site, and after the battle, some of the defeated Lancastrians fled to the abbey for protection, but the Yorkist forces led by King Edward IV chased them down and slaughtered them.

Today, the abbey is undergoing conservation work. Plans for the future include: work on the walls of the tower, the transepts, and the south side of the monastery.

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3 thoughts on “Tewkesbury Abbey”

  1. I visited the town of Tewkesbury on my visit in 2005 without knowing about the abbey. There, I almost literally fell onto the Abbey- what a beautiful suprise.

  2. Churches and abbeys seem to be better-preserved in England(and possibly elsewhere), than other architecture from the medieval period. You’re right. This is very well preserved, although some places, like Durham Cathedral, could probably give Tewkesbury Abbey a run for its money, so to speak.

  3. Laurie, do you have any pics from your trip? What else did you see while in Tewkesbury?

    Anne, Durham is a beautiful cathedral. Salisbury is another one that is in good shape, and of course Cantebury, even though parts of that cathedral are apparently being held together by duct tape:

    Tintern Abbey, while in ruins, is an impressive structure as well. It’s one of my favorite sites in England. I like old ruined structures like that.

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