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Battle Abbey

Battle Abbey History

The Abbey takes its name from the town and was founded to commemorate the bloody battle that saw William the Conqueror assume control of England in 1066.

The high altar of the abbey church was reputedly on the spot where Harold died and is now marked by a special commemorative stone.  Little remains of the original abbey buildings but its impressive gateway dominates the south end of Battle High Street.

The remaining cloisters, part of the west range, were leased to Battle Abbey School shortly after the first world war, and the school remains in occupancy to this day.  Although referred to as 'Battle Abbey', it is actually named 'St Martin's Abbey'.

The Abbey was founded as a result of a vow made by William in an Abbey at St Valerie Sur Somme, before the sea crossing, in which he promised to establish a monastery free of episcopal control if God granted him victory.  The Chronicles of Battel Abbey, which dates from around 1180, state it was "founded by the Conqueror in expiation for the sin involved in the conquest".

When William died, he left many gifts to the Abbey which included his royal cloak and a portable altar used on his campaigns.  William had endowed the Abbey to such an extent that it became the 15th wealthiest religious house in the country.  However the twin terrors of repeated French raids and the Black Death had a lasting impact on the abbey and drastically affected its population and income.

Subsequent centuries saw the Abbey grow in status and wealth thanks to the Abbots' careful management of its resources. The Abbey now has a new visitor centre with some incredible interactive displays.  There's also acafé with wonderful views of the battlefield and a host of innovative new features throughout the attraction.

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