Malmesbury Abbey Church

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Historic building in Malmesbury. Abbey church of St Mary and St Aldhelm. Benedictine Abbey church, now parish church. Church founded c637 by Irish hermit Mailduib, monastery founded during abbacy of Aldhelm (c675-705), though no pre-C12 work survives; church probably begun under Bishop Roger (c1118-1139), and mostly dates from c1160-80 with a 9-bay aisled nave, transepts with E chapels, chancel, ambulatory with 3 radiating chapels, and S porch, rebuilt 1350-1450 above gallery level with clerestory, vault, crossing spire and W towers, a lengthened chancel and Lady Chapel; 131m (about 8m taller than Salisbury Cathedral) spire fell 1479 in a storm around 1500 destroying much of the church, including two thirds of the nave and the transept. After Dissolution nave altered by William Stumpe of Abbey House and damaged W parts walled for the parish church; W tower fell c1662, demolishing the three westernmost bays of the nave.

By the 11th century Malmesbury Abbey contained the second largest library in Europe and was considered one of the leading European seats of learning. The Abbey was the site of an early attempt at human flight when, during the early 11th century, the monk Eilmer of Malmesbury attached wings to his body and flew from a tower. Eilmer flew over 200 yards (200 m) before landing, breaking both legs. He later remarked that the only reason he did not fly further was the lack of a tail on his glider. The 12th-century historian William of Malmesbury was of the community.

The Abbey, which owned 23,000 acres (93 km2) in the twenty parishes that constituted Malmesbury Hundred, was closed at the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 by Henry VIII and was sold, with all its lands, to William Stumpe, a rich merchant. He returned the abbey church to the town for continuing use as a parish church, and filled the abbey buildings with twenty looms for his cloth-weaving enterprise. Today Malmesbury Abbey is in full use as the parish church of Malmesbury, in the Diocese of Bristol. The remains still contain a fine parvise which holds some examples of books from the Abbey library. The Anglo-Saxon charters of Malmesbury, though extended by forgeries and improvements executed in the abbey’s scriptorium, provide source material today for the history of Wessex and the West Saxon church from the seventh century.

During the English Civil War, Malmesbury is said to have changed hands as many as seven times, and the abbey was fiercely fought over. Hundreds of pock-marks left by bullets and shot can still be seen on the south, west and east sides of Malmesbury Abbey walls.

Malmesbury, Abbey Church

Malmesbury, Abbey Church

Malmesbury, Abbey Church

Malmesbury, Abbey Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malmesbury, Abbey Church

Malmesbury, Abbey Church

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