A Guide to Abbeys and Cathedrals in the UK

by Heather Robinette / Nov 20, 2015 /
Heather Robinette's picture

Some of the most recognizable abbeys and cathedrals in the UK are visited often, but taking some time to visit other abbeys and cathedrals provides you with a chance to see a variety of less crowded places. During my time in London, I saw three abbeys and two cathedrals. Why should you make time to explore abbeys and cathedrals? You have the opportunity to enjoy history and see it come to life. You won’t want to pass up the chance to experience a unique part of the United Kingdom!

A Guide to Abbeys and Cathedrals in the UK

Abbeys

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines abbey as "a church that is connected to other buildings where monks or nuns live or once lived.” Prior to studying abroad, I had an understanding of what they were from learning about them in school and from movies and tv shows, but it was not until I visited them that I developed a whole new perception of them. In the movies, you can always tell it is a very tranquil place, but when you visit an abbey, it really sets in how calm and peaceful it is there. I really enjoyed my visits to the abbeys and look forward to seeing more in the future!

Fountains Abbey (Yorkshire, England)

Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved Cistercian Abbeys in England. The abbey was founded in 1132 and the abbey operated for over 400 years. Like many abbeys and monasteries in the UK, it was closed when Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries. 

Fountains Abbey - A Guide to Abbeys and Cathedrals in the UK

Fountains Abbey - A Guide to Abbeys and Cathedrals in the UK

Tintern Abbey (Tintern, Wales)

Tintern Abbey (Welsh: Abaty Tyndyrn) was founded in 1131. It is located near the village of Tintern in Monmouthshire, which is on the border of Wales and England. It was the first Cistercian foundation in Wales. Tintern Abbey was my favorite abbey we visited. We had a tour guide who took us around the ruins and explained what the different rooms once were and what they spent their time doing. The ruins are nowhere near what they once were, so an imagination is helpful in trying to picture what it once was like to walk around the abbey. 

Tintern Abbey. A Guide to Abbeys and Cathedrals in the UK

Tintern Abbey. A Guide to Abbeys and Cathedrals in the UK

Tintern Abbey. A Guide to Abbeys and Cathedrals in the UK

Westminster Abbey (London, England)

Westminster Abbey is a large abbey church in the City of Westminster, London. It is one of the most notable religious buildings in the United Kingdom. Between 1540 and 1556, the abbey had the status of a cathedral. However, since 1560, the building is no longer an abbey nor a cathedral, having instead the status of a "Royal Peculiar" — a church responsible directly to the sovereign. The building itself is the original abbey church. The tour of Westminster Abbey does cost, but it is well worth the money. As a note, there are very limited areas you are able to take pictures. 

Westminster Abbey. From A Guide to Abbeys and Cathedrals in the UK

Westminster Abbey. From A Guide to Abbeys and Cathedrals in the UK
 

“If you’re in London, be sure to visit Westminster Abbey and explore the Cosmati pavement – imagine how many people have walked on that beautiful floor!”

Tired of Visiting Cathedrals? 7 Reasons to Take Another Look

 

Cathedrals

First, understanding the difference between a church and a cathedral will help give you a better understanding of their history. Click here to read an article that discusses the differences to help give you a better idea of why they are different. I really enjoyed the cathedrals we visited because the architecture was very impressive.

York Minster (North Yorkshire, England)

The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York, known as York Minster, is the cathedral of York, England, and is one of the largest of its kind in Northern Europe. The Gothic-style church took over 250 years to build. York Minister was my favorite cathedral to visit because of the vast size and beautiful architecture throughout the cathedral. 

York Minster. From A Guide to Abbeys and Cathedrals in the UK

York Minster. From A Guide to Abbeys and Cathedrals in the UK

St. Paul’s Cathedral (London, England) 

St Paul's Cathedral in London is an Anglican cathedral. It sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London. The cathedral is one of the most famous and most recognizable sights of London. St Paul's is the second largest church building in the United Kingdom. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. The present church, dating from the late 17th century, was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. Its construction was part of a major rebuilding program in the City after the Great Fire of London. 

St. Paul's Cathedral. From A Guide to Abbeys and Cathedrals in the UK

St. Paul's Cathedral. From A Guide to Abbeys and Cathedrals in the UK

St. Paul's Cathedral. From A Guide to Abbeys and Cathedrals in the UK

St. Paul's Cathedral. From A Guide to Abbeys and Cathedrals in the UK

St. Paul's Cathedral. From A Guide to Abbeys and Cathedrals in the UK

I hope that this information can help you in experiencing a different part of London and the UK. I did not know what to expect on our first tours, but I wish I would've had time for more of them when I studied abroad. Visiting abbeys and cathedrals gave me the chance to experience more of London - I would highly recommend at least checking out one, you never know what you might find interesting! 

For more information, check out:

List of Abbeys and Monasteries in England 
List of English Cathedrals

 

Heather Robinette is the London Study Abroad Editor for Wandering Educators. She notes, "During the summer of 2011, I studied abroad for six weeks in London at the University of Westminster with Academics Programs International. I graduated from Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS in December 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. I currently work as a marketing analyst for a small company in central Texas. I am also pursuing my MBA. While I was abroad in London, I was able to create many unforgettable memories that I will never forget! My study abroad experience helped me gain various skills, but above all else, it helped me to learn more about myself and the world around me." You can find her online at http://www.heatherrobinette.com/

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Heather Robinette