Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Malmesbury Abbey (Malmesbury)

The impressive remains of the Benedictine Malmesbury Abbey are now the parish church of the old hilltop town of Malmesbury in Wiltshire.

Malmesbury Abbey was founded in the 7th century. An early Abbot was St. Aldhem, who died in 709. His shrine attracted huge numbers of pilgrims, and this led to a complete rebuilding in the 12th century.

The remaining church has some of the finest Norman architecture and statuary in England, including a magnificent South porch, depicting in stone the Creation and scenes from the Old Testament and the life of Christ. Inside the porch in stone are the Apostles at Pentecost, with the Holy Spirit overhead.

There was formerly a spire, as tall as the one at Salisbury, but this collapsed in about 1500, and a tower also fell down.

Inside the church itself, there is a rare watching loft, and above the porch is a small museum of some of its treasures.

At the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it was saved from complete demolition by virtue of being purchased by a local businessman named Stumpe, who converted it into a weaving factory, and it later became the parish church.

Malmesbury Abbey is the burial place of the great Athelstan, King of England, who died in 939.

A monk here was William of Malmesbury, the 12th century librarian, who wrote an early history called “Deeds of the English Kings”. Another was Elmer the Flying Monk. In 1110, he constructed wings and leapt off the tower, but unfortunately fell and broke both his legs.

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