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Tours > Ancient York > St. Mary's Abbey

David Ford, History Editor Ancient York
by David Nash Ford BA,
Editor, History on Britannia

St. Mary's Abbey
In the Yorkshire Museum

St. Mary's Abbey Ruins, York The great Abbey of St. Mary in York was founded by King William Rufus in 1088 and, for four hundred and fifty years, it was the wealthiest and most powerful abbey in the North of England. Its monks, who transferred here from the old monastic centre of Lastingham, lived and worked under the Benedictine rule. Religious arguments and desire for reform led to the Prior and a number of monks leaving to found the famous Cistercian Fountains Abbey in 1132. However, St. Mary's continued to thrive until it finally succumbed to the might of the crown in 1539.

The idyllic ruins of the north and west walls of the Abbey Church create a beautiful centre piece for the Museum Gardens, often used as the setting for the famous York Mystery Plays. The plan of the rest of the monastic complex is laid out in the surrounding grass. Though other remnants, such as the Pilgrims' Hospitium, the West Gate and Abbot's House (now King's Manor) can be seen not far away. Excavated finds and architectural features, particularly relating to the chapter and warming houses, are strikingly displayed in the adjoining Yorkshire Museum.

Next Stop: St. Mary's Hospitium

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