Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hexham Abbey

Another repost of a classic church in England!

In the north near Hadrian's Wall is the town of Hexham, with its abbey and town square. We stopped off here on our way home and managed to catch the last hour the church was open and some dinner on the way home.

Hexham Abbey was originally built as a Benedictine Abbey in the 670s by St. Wilfrid, Bishop of York. He had been granted the lands by Queen Etheldreda in 672. The crypt of this early church still remains, though it can only been seen on a tour. We didn't get to see it since we arrived late.

In 1113 the abbey became an Augustinian priory, when the most striking feature was added. The abbey has a Night Stair, which was used by the canons to go from their sleeping quarters to worship. Nowadays, the choir comes down to sing in services. This staircase was easily J's second favorite feature.

The stairs date back from the 1100s and are still in good condition!

J admires the view from the top.

J's favorite feature was a rope hanging from the ceiling of the church. A man was in the church and started pulling the rope about 16:50 to summon people to evening prayer. Yes, it was the bell rope. The guy rang it for five or ten minutes. J sat and watched, mostly staring up at the ceiling in amazement.

That was the longest rope we had seen in a long time

Luckily, J can't read or he'd want to go through and check out the bells.

The nave was rebuilt in the early twentieth century. Many niches in the walls were filled not with statues, but with stones from the various buildings and rebuildings of the Abbey.

The Celts must have been here at one point!

Other stones from earlier times.
The nave with a niche in the arch on the right; the left wall is from 15th century

It's also interesting to note that the church was not plundered during the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII in the 1530s. Since it also served as parish church of Hexham, the abbey was restricted to only that function and was not shut down.

As in Ripon Cathedral, a plaque with the list of bishops and other significant clergy can be found in the church. Nearby to the list is the cross-shaft from the grave of St. Acca, one of the early bishops of Hexham, who died around 740 AD.

Over a thousand years old!

Afterward, we went to a pub for dinner. The meal was so-so, but the dessert was an excellent sticky toffee pudding, so we left with a favorable impression. J didn't like the potty at the pub because of the extra-loud hand dryer. We walked back to our car through the main gate from town, which J liked because it echoed. The visit to Hexham was definitely worth it.

Echoing arches are awesome!

The church viewed across the market square from the arch above.

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