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Abbeys and Other Religious Buildings

An Introduction

Abbeys, monasteries, and other religious houses, can be divided into three groups, derelict remains, active churches that were once a part of a monastery and active monasteries. There are very few of the last group and a large number of the other two.

Henry VIII, and the politicians of the time, as most of us know, was instrumental in the dissolution of the monasteries, and around 800 monasteries were closed. In quite a few places the existing abbey church became the Parish church or regional Cathedral, in some others the properties were converted, but in many cases any valuable materials were sold or taken and the buildings abandoned and over time fell down.

In this section we look at Abbeys, Cathedrals, Monasteries and other religious buildings, with background information, lists of where they are all to be found, location guides on many and articles on how to photograph them.

Before we get to look at what to photograph, perhaps its a good idea to get some idea of the background, what happened, why, and how the buildings came about. What were to orders that created them and how did they differ. But we are going to start even before this looking at how Christianity first arrived in Britain.

Christianity in Britain, looks at how Christianity arrived in Britain and the early history, including the development of Celtic and Roman branches of the Christian faith and their amalgamation.

The development of Monasteries and Abbeys in Britain  looks at how monasteries came about, the development of the brands, numbers involved and why each developed and eventually fell out of favour.

Dissolution of the Monasteries looks at the background to, and what was going on in Europe, what led to and the results of the dissolution of the monasteries, which had little to do with who Henry VIII wished to marry.

The layout of a Monastery or Abbey, looks at an early complete design of a Benedictine Monastery, and also looks at some later differences.

A Day at the Abbey , looks at the life of the monks who lived there and how they used much of the space we discover in buildings now.

We look at going out to photograph these buildings in two articles.  How to photograph a derelict abbey, takes you through the points to look at when planning a visit and visiting a large derelict monastery, church building or abbey, while How to photograph an Abbey or Cathedral that is still in use, as the title suggests, is looking at photography in buildings that are more substantially complete and often still holding services.

Discovering how many of these sites relate to each other will help you to create a better understanding of what you discover, for example if you were to visit and photograph a surviving parish church or cathedral that was built by the same order as a ruined abbey that you also photographed, you would be able to see how the surviving parts of each provided you with more information on the other. The more you see the better your understanding, and while no one site shows you the whole picture, you can build this in your mind from a number. As you look around you will get to spot details, perhaps a drain in one place in a derelict, may remind you of monks washing facilities in another at about the same location, and when visiting active churches you will get to know what would have been on the other side of doors that no longer go anywhere. Within an order most were built to the same design, providing the local geography allowed it. This means you will also spot buildings nearby that were once a part of a monastery, and have a good idea what would have been there.

In order to find interesting buildings to photograph, we have a range of lists or indexes, including:-

You can also get to a full list of sites we have location guides for by clicking here.

The majority of the other pages in this section are location guides looking at specific sites in detail.

See Also:

Abbey and Religious Buildings Section for all articles, lists and location guides on Abbey's, Cathedrals, Churches, Holy Wells etc.


By: Keith Park Section: Abbey and Religious Buildings Key:
Page Ref: introduction_article_abbeys Topic: Abbeys Last Updated: 02/2011

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