Tintern Abbey is the best-preserved medieval abbey in Wales

Tintern Abbey, dating from 1131, is one of Wales’ most important ruins. It is a Cistercian monastery in Monmouthshire, England, near the settlement of Tintern. It was the first Cistercian institution in Wales, and it has become synonymous with Romantic literature and art.

Because of its beauty, many poets and artists, including Turner and Wordsworth, visited the Abbey during the Romantic period. It is a popular tourist site with an interesting history. It is located amid the midst of the Wye Valley, an internationally protected region that straddles the boundary between Wales and England.

The abbey was created by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow, who was the first cousin of William Giffard, Bishop of Winchester. Clare welcomed the first Cistercians to Waverley in 1128, when they arrived from L’Aumone Abbey in France, a daughter house of Citeaux.

The abbey was founded in 1131. Author: Saffron Blaze. CC BY 3.0

In the 12th century, the Cistercian monks were one of the most prosperous orders. The Tintern order followed the Rule of St. Benedict and derived their main precepts from the Carta Caritatis. The abbey’s current ruins are from numerous building works between 1136 and 1536, and there are relatively few remains of the earliest structures.

It is the first Cistercian abbey in Wales. Author: Stewart Black. CC BY 2.0

It was destroyed at the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century. Monastic life in England, Ireland, and Wales was abolished by King Henry VIII. The Cistercian way of life, which had lasted 400 years, came to an end on September 3, 1536, when Abbot Wyche opened the monastery to the King’s visitors. The structure was given to Henry Somerset, the 2nd Earl of Worcester.

It fell into ruin after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century. Author: Stewart Black. CC BY 2.0

The abbey became popular in the 17th and 18th centuries for its romantic qualities and was frequently visited. On the site, many poetry was written and artworks were created. Nathaniel and Samuel Buck created one of the first etched engravings of the Abbey in 1732.

The Rev. William Gilpin’s book “Observations on the River Wye,” published in 1770, increased the number of visitors.

It became popular for its romantic qualities. Author: fourthandfifteen. CC BY 2.0

The poet William Wordsworth wrote “Lines penned a few miles above Tintern Abbey, on revisiting the banks of the Wye during a journey, July 13, 1798” about the spot. The abbey does not appear in the poem, but it is mentioned. Sophia F. Ziegenhirt, another novelist who was inspired by the abbey, used it as the setting for her horror book “The Orphan of Tintern Abbey.”

Other artists that visited this spectacular area include Thomas Gainsborough and Thomas Girtin, who drew varied drawings of the abbey’s masonry, and Benjamin Williams Leader, Samuel Palmer, and John Warwick Smith, who painted the entire Abbey from a distance.

South Window, Frederick Calvert, 1815. 

The abbey was purchased by the crown from the Duke of Beaufort in 1901, and it was designated as a National Monument. Following then, the ruins underwent extensive renovations and care. The Office of Works was in charge of the ruins in 1914, and some restorations were carried out. The ivy on the walls, which was a major feature of the abbey and contributed to its romantic nature, was removed during the rebuilding.

It is recognized as a monument of national importance. Author: Nilfanion. CC BY 4.0

Cadw took over management of the abbey in 1984, and the remains have designated a Grade I structure on September 29, 2000. The Watergate, which still stands beside the Anchor Inn on the Wye River, is one of the earliest parts of the abbey and is also Grade I listed. The Abbey was used to film two music videos: the first for the song Nothing But a Heartache by the legendary Flirtations in 1969, and the second for the song Can I Play with Madness by the heavy metal band Iron Maiden in 1988.

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