In the heart of Bury St Edmunds, the extensive remains of the wealthiest and most powerful Benedictine monastery in England, shrine of St Edmund, can still be found. Alongside the cathedral here you'll find the complete 14th C Great Gate and Norman Tower, plus the impressive ruins and altered west front of the immense church.
The Abbey was once one of the richest Benedictine monasteries in England. In the early 10C the relics of the martyred English King, St. Edmund, were transferred from Hoxne to Beodricsworth (later known as Bury St. Edmunds). The chosen burial site had already been in religious use for nearly three centuries by Benedictine monks who had settled there in 1020. The monks made the richly endowed Abbey a popular destination for pilgrimages.
The Abbey was much enlarged and rebuilt during the twelfth century and became one of the largest in the country at around 505ft long, spanning 246 ft across its westerly transept.
Abbey Gate, opening onto the Great Courtyard, was the secular entrance used by the Abbey's servants, but in 1327 the Gate was destroyed by local people during the Great Riot as they were angry at the power of the monastery. The Norman Gate was rebuilt in 1120-48 and is virtually unchanged today.
Great Gate is an impressive 14th century stone gatehouse, designed to be the gateway for the Great Courtyard. One of the best surviving examples of its type, this two storey gate-hall is entered through a single archway.
Today Bury St Edmunds is home to the largest UK Brewer, Greene King. There has been a vineyard in the town since at least the 1200s, and at one point there were 3 breweries in the Abbey as each monk was entitled to eight pints a day! There are also still several smaller breweries in Bury St Edmunds so be sure you ask for a pint of local Ale when you visit.
You can find more about the Abbey and its history as well as todays opening hours on their website - just click on the Visit Website link.
Check out our Guides to other English Heritage
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