A brief history of Croyland Abbey

Extract taken from Croyland Abbey Flower Festival 2009 Programme.

Guthlac (pron. Guth-luck) the son of a Mercian nobleman arrived on the island of Croyland on 24th August, St Bartholomew’s day in A.D. 699, having journeyed from Repton to Cambridge, Cambridge to Thorney and then by boat to Croyland.

He came to Croyland to live the life of a hermit. At this point in his life he felt that he was being attacked by demons and fiends. He had a vision in which Saint Bartholomew came to and gave him a whip which which to drive the devils off the island. For this reason the Abbey’s coat of arms contains three whips to symbolise Gthlac and three knives to symbolise Saint Bartholomew, who, it is said, was martyred by being skinned alive.

The first Abbey, which was dedicated on Saint Bartholomew’s day in A.D.716, was made of wood and had a reed roof. It was burned down by the Danes [Comment: those pesky Danes!] in A.D.850. A few monks survived this attack by hiding in the reed beds. The second Abbey was pulled down after being damaged by fire and an earthquake. What is present today is the result of the third rebuilding.

The destruction of the Abbey church and the other monastic buildings began after Henry VIII disolved the Abbey in 1539. What we see today is only the North side of the former Abbey church. This aisle survived because it was the portion of the Abbey church set aside for the use of the townspeople. As such it had been walled off from the main part of the Abbey church well before 1539. over the porch is a room called the Parvise in which the priests of the Abbey once lived.

The bell ropes are amongst the longest in England [Comment: which rings out every Friday evening]. The 15th century channel screens contains traces of the original guilding and colouring and some carvings. The new rooms completed in 2006 give extra space in which to explain our history and provide hospitality to our visitors.

Sometimes I just love a bit of local history!

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