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Bath's Christian HQ since the 7th century

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Bath Abbey is visible from just about any part of the city. It stands in the centre of town, just next door to the Roman Baths. The building's journey through its thousand years of history has not been an easy one. On two separate occasions, the abbey has been completely destroyed. However, each time a new building has sprung up in its place. Its current incarnation looks more grand and imposing than any other structure in the city.

Bath Abbey
Photo f_mafra
The story starts in the Saxon era of the 8th century, when the very first Bath Abbey was built. It only lasted until 1066, when William the Conqueror's men knocked it down and replaced it with a Norman church of their own. This new structure was so impressive that it was soon reclassified as a cathedral.
Nevertheless, a few centuries later, this building too found itself in ruins. As beautiful as it was, the Norman church was too expensive to maintain, and this resulted in years of neglect. Eventually, plans were drawn up for a third church to be built on the site. This was in the year 1499. The next hundred years would prove to be the most eventful in the abbey's long history.
The construction work took a long time, but it was finally completed in the 1530s. This turned out to be terrible timing because, within that very same decade, King Henry VIII committed the biggest upheaval in the country's religious history. He took charge of Christianity in England, and set about dissolving every single one of its monasteries. After all that hard work, the new Bath Abbey was reduced once again to ruins. However, the 16th century had another twist left in its tale. Under the rule of Elizabeth I, Henry's daughter, the abbey was rebuilt yet again, to serve as the parish church.

The fan vaulted ceiling
Photo stevecadman
From then on, the building was finally allowed to relax. Thankfully, the turbulence of its destructive years were over at last. Some restoration work was carried out in the 1860s, but aside from that, Bath Abbey has been untouched for 400 years.

Inside Bath Abbey
Photo some of rebecca's photos

The Abbey Organ
Photo tawalker
Worshippers have been coming to the site of today's abbey for over a thousand years, and services are still held throughout the week. The building is usually open to the public every day, so you're free to look around at will. During most times of the year, there are hourly guided tours of the church tower. You'll need to conquer 212 steps to make it to the top, but the gruelling climb is worth it. The tower offers the best vantage point in Bath, and the view over the city is marvellous. The tour also lets you sit behind the clock face, and see the church bells.

The view from the top of the tower
Photo NH53
Since 1994, the building has also included its own museum. It's called Heritage Vaults, and it tells the long story of the abbey. They have videos, old sculptures and a model of the Norman cathedral that once stood here.

Close up of a stained glass panel
Photo Tom Pollard
As you explore, you can't help but notice the sheer amount of stained glass on display. There are 52 separate windows, taking up around 80% of the wall space! This explains the building's historic nickname: the Lantern of the West.
Visitor Information
Bath Abbey is open Monday to Saturday, 9am - 6pm. Sunday's open 1pm to 2.30pm & 4.30pm to 5.30pm. Entry is FREE, but donations welcome. Tel: 01225 422462

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