Priory Church of St Mary

Abergavenny, United Kingdom

The Priory Church of St Mary, Abergavenny, has been called 'the Westminster Abbey of Wales' because of its large size, and the numerous high status tomb monuments and medieval effigies surviving within it.

It was originally the church of the Benedictine Priory, established under Hamelin de Balun the first Norman holder of the title Lord Abergavenny, which in the 1090s became Baron Bergavenny. At this time it was a cell of the Abbey of Saint Vincent at Le Mans in France. Recent archaeological surveys have revealed significant finds of Roman Samian ware pottery, suggesting that the church may have been built on the site of a previous place of Romano-British and possibly Celtic worship.

In 1320 John Hastings, 2nd Baron Hastings, called on the Pope to set up an investigation into the Priory, in which the monks were accused of failing to maintain the Benedictine Rule. The prior, Fulk Gaston, absconded to the mother Abbey with the church silver.

By the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries the Priory had only the prior and four monks. Due to the close connections between the Lords of Abergavenny and the Tudor dynasty the priory was spared and became the parish church.

The church is cruciform in layout and impressively large with a chancel and nave 52 m in length. The central tower has ten bells.

The church is mainly in the Decorated and Perpendicular Period architectural styles and was, like many churches, subjected to Victorian period refurbishment in the 19th century, with sadly little trace of the original Norman architecture surviving. The Norman baptismal font was rediscovered in the churchyard in the 19th century; it had been removed from the church in the 17th century by a local Baptist minister, John Abbot, on the grounds that he did not believe in infant baptism.

The oaken choir stalls with carved misericords and carved lattice work backs, however, are 15th-century survivals. They bear the name of the prior at that time Wynchestre and his own stall remains, slightly raised and surmounted by a mitre.



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Founded: 11th century
Category: Religious sites in United Kingdom

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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Wendy Owens (12 months ago)
Popped in her today as was killing time before a hospital appointment. What a delightful place. We were shown around by a knowledgeable gentlemen who talked about the various aspects of the churches history. Would recommend this place
Jennifer Parker (13 months ago)
A lovely, historic building for a visit in itself. My friendly fellow parishioners and our marvelous clergy make attending worship an uplifting experience. Visitors are always made welcome.
Stephen Crayden (2 years ago)
Surprisingly interesting place to visit with medieval carvings and knights tombs. Very helpful and welcoming volunteer.
Christopher Chia (2 years ago)
A beautiful church with lots of attractions. We were assisted by a volunteer who filled us in with all the church highlights. A church with lots of historic artefacts.
Erik van de Loo (2 years ago)
John is a very nice and polite priest, he could tell us a lot about the history of the 1000 year old church. And need to be more attracted by the people, its worth it.
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