Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey


Location: Abbey Lane, North Yorkshire Map

Tel. 01947 603569

Open: Mar- Oct: daily

Nov- Feb: Thu- Mon

Whitby Abbey is a former monastery in Whitby, a historic port town on the North Sea coast of Yorkshire, England. The ruin has been listed as a Grade I structure on the National Heritage List for England since 1954. In 2019, Whitby Abbey was visited by around 161,000 people.


History of Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey was founded in 657 AD by King Oswiu of Northumbria as a dual abbey for men and women and was initially called Streoneshalch. Already under the monastery's first abbess, Hilda, who was later canonized, Whitby Abbey became famous for its education and close relationship with the royal family in Northumbria. In 664 AD the Synod of Whitby was held here. Hilda was a follower of Celtic customs, but introduced the Roman rite and the Roman date of Easter into her monastery after the synod.

After the death of the abbess in 680, the history of Whitby Abbey is 200 years in the dark. In 867 the abbey was destroyed in a Danish invasion, the name Streoneshalch disappeared and was replaced by Whitby.

Reinfried, who had belonged to the invasion army under Wilhelm the Conqueror, only founded around 1077 a new Benedictine monastery. Construction began around 1220; the abbey was rebuilt a little further south than the previous building. Despite its earlier importance and architectural splendor, Whitby no longer played a special role. During the English Reformation in the 16th century under Henry VIII, the monastery was dissolved and the building left to decay. After the nave collapsed in 1763 and the crossing tower in 1830, the western façade was destroyed by shells from German battle cruisers during the raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby in World War I. In 1921, however, the facade was reconstructed true to the original. The choir, the transepts, part of the northern side aisle of the nave and the aforementioned western façade are all still standing from the church today.


Notables of Whitby Abbey

Cædmon was a monk in Whitby and is said to have been in charge of herding Hilda's pigs. His poem Song of Creation is the oldest poem in English. An approximately 6 m high cross in front of St. Mary's Church in Whitby commemorates him.


The ruin

Most of the ruins that can be seen today date from the 13th/14th centuries. Century, so also the early Gothic Early English style (12th-13th centuries) predominates. However, some windows have been reworked in the High Gothic Decorated style (13th/14th centuries), others in the Late Gothic Perpendicular style (14th-16th centuries). The building has a total length of 91 meters. There is a kink in the main axis between the nave and the chancel.