Location: Selby, United Kingdom, Europe
Selby Abbey was the first monastery to be founded in northern England after the Norman Conquest more than 900 years ago.
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Although Selby Abbey in Yorkshire is now a parish church, it was one of England’s great monastic churches, built on a grand scale and to a high level of architectural and artistic mastery. Founded in 1069 by William the Conqueror three years after the Norman Conquest, and added to over time, it is a key building illustrating the transition from Romanesque, or Norman, to a fully developed Gothic style. It is also significant for surviving intact after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s.
The painted and stained glass of the 14th century east window illustrates the Tree of Jesse and is held in place by one of the best example of curvilinear tracery in Britain. There are also rare examples of 14th century carved figures sitting astride the parapets within and outside the choir. These important features have been affected by centuries of industrial activity as well as atmospheric salinity from the nearby North Sea. Deterioration of the exterior stonework is highlighted by one of the pinnacles that fell from the central tower onto the transept. With the support of many organizations, extensive restoration work has already been completed on the Abbey’s medieval West Front, the Latham chapel, and the North Choir Aisle. Additionally, re-glazing and repairing the east window, replacement of stonework, and the re-carving of statues and gargoyles have been finished. Other restoration work is needed to continue to preserve the Abbey.
Selby is a relatively rare, large-scale survivor of intact medieval monastic architecture in England. Selby’s importance before the Reformation cannot be overstated. In addition to its architectural merits, including close parallels with the iconic Durham Cathedral, it was also a mitered abbey, which means it was given a papal privilege allowing the abbot to sit in the House of Lords.
Beyond its architectural and historical significance, Selby Abbey is a parish church, open for prayer and worship every day of the year. It is an integral part of the town. However, the parish suffers from a significantly higher than average level of unemployment. The town has been dependent in the last fifty years on four major industries—ship building, power generation, mining and cattle food production—all of which have declined dramatically. With Selby’s social and economic problems standing in tandem with the worst of the northeast of England, it is vital that the abbey be able to remain open to offer help to anyone in the community.
The Crescent, Selby, Yorkshire, YO8 4PU
Tel: 0044 (0)1757 703123