The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, more commonly known as Bath Abbey, currently looms majestically and commandingly above the city centre. This magnificent abbey church was built between 1499 and 1616, making it one of the last momentous medieval churches to be raised in England. Today, there’s nothing else quite like it.
Remaining one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture, Bath Abbey features columns of honey-gold stone, fan-vaulted ceilings, and beautiful stained glass windows. Of course, it’s still a place of worship, and has been a site of Christian believe for over 1,200 years.
In fact, three different churches have occupied the site of today’s Abbey. The first Anglo-Saxon Abbey Church dated back to 757 AD, and was torn down by Norman conquerors after the invasion of 1066. An immense Norman cathedral was then begun around 1090 before being abandoned due to a lack of funds, eventually falling into ruins. The Abbey that you see today really sits on a rich historical site and that’s also true for a lot of other places in Bath too.
The first thing that most visitors will see is the western side. The story goes that Oliver King, the Bishop of Bath, had a dream of ascending and descending angels, and it is these images that stonemasons and sculptures etched into the western façade.
The Abbey actually lay in ruins itself after King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1539, but the building was repaired over the centuries to reach its current grandeur. War memorials surround the Abbey, plaques adorn its floor and walls, and the pealing of ten bells calls the assembled crowds to worship.
Just looking at Bath Abbey from the outside is an experience, but you’ll want to head inside to truly appreciate this outstanding building. Tower Tours are available every day except Sunday, providing visitors with the chance to slip behind the scenes and view areas such as the ringing chamber and the top of the vaulted ceiling. You’ll have to climb up a fair few stairs to reach the top of the Abbey, but the views that you will be treated to will make that trek more than worth it.