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St Mary's Abbey, York

Visited September 2019

Location York, Yorkshire
Entrance Fee No 
Railway Station Nearby Yes- York
Parking City Car Parks
Facilities None


The picturesque remains of a Benedictine abbey, in what is now a public park adjacent to York Museum.






The original abbey on the site was a pre-Norman construction built in 1055 and dedicated to St Olave of Norway, who helped convert many Vikings to Christianity. After the conquest the abbey was rebuilt and rededicated to the Virgin Mary. This building was in turn rebuilt after a fire in 1137 and again in 1274. The ruins we see today date back to the latter rebuild.





In 1132 thirteen monks from the abbey had left in protest against the decadence of the abbey monks. They wanted to go back to a simpler, more prayer-based lifestyle and so advocated giving away the abbeys' money to the poor.. They went on to establish Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire under the stricter Cistercian rule.


This lavish lifestyle of the monks continued for centuries, as the abbey was one of the richest in England. Consequently there was little in the way of public outcry when it was closed in 1540 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.





The ruins are in a public park and are free to visit. They form a nice backdrop to the park, which is a popular place to sit or just stroll around enjoying the green space. There were plenty of children and families using the park on the day we were there, and of course the York Museum is also good to visit. During our visit there was an owl and birds of prey stall in the park, and you could have a bird perch on your arm for a small fee. It seemed very popular, and we enjoyed holding the birds. They may not be there all the time, but there seem to be other regular events in the park .


The city of York has many other attractions, such as Clifford's Tower and the York Town Walls. St Mary's Abbey is just a few minutes walk from York Minster, which draws many tourists every day. There are no shortages of places to eat around the city.  So all in all York is a very convenient place to visit with small kids in tow.





More info:  St Mary's Abbey

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