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Waltham Abbey

Waltham Abbey was the richest monastery in Essex before the dissolution. It had Thomas Tallis as its organist at one point. It was a pilgrimage church. It was where Harold II was buried. After the dissolution, two-thirds of it was knocked down, leaving only enough for a parish church. Its bones are Norman, but with plenty of add-ons and revisions to mark the passing of subsequent centuries.

You might think, from this photograph, that this is a Memorial Day post. Literally, it is (at least in the U.S.), and seasonally, it is. Of course, poppies are in bloom this time of year. But if I spent my afternoon remembering any particular battle, it was the Battle of Hastings, in which Harold was killed, in October of 1066.

Poppies growing on a wall, assembled from parts of the destroyed extended abbey.

Waltham Abbey from across abbey lands. The lands go on much further, through ex-cloisters, rose gardens, through a subway under a busy road to the marshy remnants of what were the abbey's fishponds.

Where the high altar was before the disolution, with the stone marking where Harold II, King of the Angles, is said to have been buried after his death at the Battle of Hastings. The curving rise of earth behind the altar marks where the apse once ended, before the dissolution.

Inside the church

A fine medieval Last Judgment. The saved get architecture, the damned get a beastie.

The remnants of the seventeenth-century clock mechanism. They didn't know what else to do with it, so put it up on a window ledge where it still is today.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 31st, 2010 05:50 pm (UTC)
That takes me back! When I did a course in archaeological surveying (staying in a house whose grounds made me think I was living in an Agatha Christie, starting with tea on the lawn) we learned how to survey using an alidade on exactly that part of the abbey.
May. 31st, 2010 07:24 pm (UTC)
What splendid Norman pillars! It looks to be an interesting site to explore.
May. 31st, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for the photos, & comments. I'd never realized before that the saved get Civilization while the damned get its Extreme Opposite, despite my having seen so many New Jerusalems and Cities of God.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )