Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Bath Abbey (Bath)

The Abbey Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is the parish church of Bath, and is set at the end of a square, with other important buildings, including the Roman Baths and Pump Room, in close proximity.

It started life in the Anglo-Saxon period as St. Peter's Monastery, which was seized by Offa of Mercia in 712.

After the Norman Conqust, Bishop John de Villula of Wells decided to move his seat to Bath, and started to build a new cathedral, which was completed in 1170.

The title "Bishop of Bath and Wells", still in use today, dates from 1244, and for a short time the towns shared cathedral status.

In 1499, Bishop Oliver King, in response to a dream, started to build the present Bath Abbey, which, although magnificent, is only half the size of the previous building.

After the Dissolution, the Abbey reverted to parish church status, and there was even a public thoroughfare running along the North aisle.

The West Front is particularly interesting. On either side of the very tall window are ladders on which angels are ascending and descending, representing Oliver King's dream. There is also his rebus, with an olive tree and a crown.

The whole Abbey is roofed with fan vaulting, and is the only church in the world to be completely roofed in this way.

The nave has an enormous collection of memorials, of which in England only Westminster Abbey has more. One of the memorials is to Isaac Pitman, the inventor of Pitman's shorthand. Another is to Beau Nash, Bath's Master of Ceremonies in its 18th century heyday.

The St. Alphege Chapel remembers the saint who was born in Bath, and after serving as Bishop of Winchester was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, before being taken captive by the Danish invaders and "stoned" to death with ox bones.

The most important event in the history of this site was the coronation of King Edgar in 973. The service was devised by St. Dunstan and is still in essence used for coronations today.

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