Monday, 22 November 2010

Tintern Abbey

I feel very much at home amongst antiquities so it's fortunate I am British as we can barely move without bumping into a castle, Roman road, well or some such site of interest.

Over the summer a friend and I went to Wales and on our tour we visited Tintern Abbey (Wiki here). These impressive ruins loom over the River Wye. Built over a 400 year period beginning in the twelfth century the Abbey was home to monks from the Cistercian order. It was destroyed in the fifteenth century by Welsh rebels and then surrendered to the crown when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. The site lay forgotten and decaying until the eighteenth century when the Romantics took interest in such picturesque locations. The Abbey was painted by Turner amongst others and is now preserved as a tourist location.

Walking around the remains it struck me that the immense walls with their sturdy buttresses form a stark contrast to what must, in our eyes, have been cramped, twisting interiors. Looking at the door apertures and wall footings one can see that the rooms and thoroughfares were tiny by today's standards. Narrow corridors allowed the monks to creep up to the main chapel's clerestories (upper windows) and the now exposed ducts and channels which conducted water to the kitchens formed of a network of winding tunnels. True, there were spacious quadrangles which must have been idyllic in the summer sun, but being buried between those stone walls on a wet winter night must have been an altogether more primeval experience.

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  1. You didn't find a black beanie did you? I lost it there last October when I was in the UK. :)

    Wonderful place, and lovely atmospheric photos. Wish I was there right now!

  2. Hi Peter. No beanie, but I did find a sense of the weight of history bearing down on me and an awaremeness of my own mortality. Hey ho!