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Tintern Abbey

Visited September 2012

Location Tintern, Monmouthshire
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby No
Parking Yes- Pay & Display
Facilities Toilets, Gift Shop


I will start this review with a quote borrowed from a 'Visit Wales' leaflet which came through my letter box recently, 'Tintern Abbey- It's almost 900 years old, Has been an inspiration to Tennyson, Wordsworth and Turner. And, it makes a change from all those castles...'


Not sure I agree with the last bit, but Tintern Abbey certainly is worth adding to any list of 'must see' places!






Sited next to the River Wye, the romantic remains of a once glorious abbey are probably the most well known monastic ruins in the country. A tourist attraction since the 1700's, then made famous through poetry from Wordsworth and paintings by Turner, Tintern has always been a popular site .


However, it is easy to forget that for 400 years it was a thriving  monastery, home to many generations of Cistercian monks.  The Cistercians were a French order, who were established in Britain by Bishop William Giffard of Winchester. Tintern Abbey was founded in 1131 by Walter Fitz Richard of Clare in , who was Lord of Chepstow Castle, and related to Bishop William. The site at Tintern, the River on one side and the wooded hills on the other made a perfect spot for the siting of a new abbey. The first monks at Tintern would have come over from France, but there was never a problem with recruitment and within ten years the abbey had sixty monks, most of whom were from the local area.


The monastery expanded in size over the next four hundred years, and a lay community grew up around the monastery. The monks often provided accommodation for pensioners who had paid for the right to live out their old age in the abbey. Extra living quarters were built to house these residents, and in turn servants were employed to help with their care. 


The end of the monastery came in 1536, when it was ordered to be surrendered to the King's treasurers. Good old Henry VIII was in a fine plundering mood, and all valuables from the monastery were seized by the crown. The monks were pensioned off and the buildings granted to Henry Somerset, Earl of Worcester. Having no desire to live there, Somerset left the buildings to fall into ruin.






The ruins today are extensive and certainly very beautiful. The remains of the roofless abbey church, grass now growing on what would have once been flagstone floors is a poignant reminder that the abbey has now been defunct for longer than it was in operation. The presbytery with its columns and arches still intact add to the spirituality of the site, although no longer used for regular worship, occasional masses are still held in the ruins.





The site is now managed by CADW and has all the modern facilities expected of a major tourist attraction- toilets, gift shop, but no cafe. However Tintern is bursting with cafes and pubs so there is no problem finding somewhere to eat. There is a car park right next to the ruins, although it does get very full very quickly.





More info:  CADW Tintern Abbey

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