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Hexham Abbey

 

 

 

 

Hexham Abbey from the south.  The cloisters would have been around the grassed area - the nave is an early 1900s rebuild.  The guidebook below shows the church from the north. 

 

HEXHAM ABBEY

 

Hexham was founded in late 600s by Saint Wilfred, Bishop of York, on land donated by Queen Etheldreda.  It was part of the Irish / Celtic Christian church based on York, rather than the eventually dominant Roman church based on Canterbury.  

 

As with most of the Christian buildings in Northumbria it got Vikinged then Normnaned, then it was refounded and rebuilt in 1113 as a Priory of Canons Regular of St Augustine.  This lasted until it got Henried in 1537.  It is now a parish church and, despite it's title, has never really been an abbey!

 

Today's Hexham Abbey is a place full of interesting stuff, in the way that a museum is, but it is disjointed spatially, and there is little line of sight flow.  The main nave has no south aisle and is almost walled off, as in many English churches, by ho-hum organ pipes which the locals are proud of.  The most attractive space is the north transept, but in 2007 it was half full of a jumble of tables, chairs and miscellaneous unwanted furnishings!

 

 

 

 

 

Link to Hexham Abbey web site

 

 

 

 

 

The night stairs - though nowadays there is no canons' dormitory at the top!

 

 

AUGUSTINIAN CANONS

 

Canons were the religious establishments of choice for parsimonious feudal lords.  Canons were ordained and spent their days administering sacraments and generally earning "livings" out in the community, whereas monks (who were mostly not ordained) were generally just a stay at monastery double dead weight expense (unless they were Cistercians, who were competent land managers, agriculturalists and water engineers), as your landlord also had to support priests to do the work that monks could / would not!  In England in the the 1100s, 165 Augustinian houses were founded, including in this region Hexham (this page), Lanercost and Carlisle

 

 

A ROMAN STANDARD BEARER NAMED FLAVINUS

 

At the base of the night stairs is the headstone of the tomb of a Roman standard bearer called Flavinus which dates back to pre 100.  It was discovered in 1881 lying under the slype (a covered passage connecting the transept and chapter house). 

 

In the style of Spanish moor bashing a thousand years later, our Roman, who has not felt the need to unsheathe his sword,  is shown with his right boot up the bottom of a cowering Brit, who is ineffectively holding a short club or sword pointing upwards.

 

 

 

 

 

The beautiful little silver "Hexham Plaque" dates from the 700s.

It's in the British Museum (this is their photo).

 

 

 

 

 

The nave - organ blocked and lacking a south aisle.

 

 

 

 

Fascinating spandrel doodles in the blind arcades of the north transept.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The late 600s "frith" (= peace or sanctuary) stool.  The interlinked three-mandorla designs at the back corners are an early representation of the Trinity (see also the abbey logo on the guidebook cover above)

 

 

 

 

 

 

North choir aisle

 

 

 

The north base of Prior Rowland Leschman's Chantry Chapel c1500 (guide book photo).

There are not many Chantry chapels around, being as how Henry VIII ordered their destruction.

This one also contains the good Prior's effigy / tomb and some old paintings, including "portraits" of eight sainted early Saxon bishops of Hexham.

 

 

 

St George whacks another dragon, to the apparent surprise of his horse!

more images of Saint George and Saint Michael killing dragons

 

 

 

Identified in the guide as a Madonna, though she looks as though she is about to toss a struggling child onto the fire .......

 

 

 

A fox preacher draws in a geese audience

(link to a preachin' fox misericord in Ludlow)

 

 

 

A sheep stealer rests and reflects

 

 

 

A gluttonous ape

 

 

 

Prudence (or could she be Luxuria or mermaid?) with mirror or comb and snake

 

 

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All original material Adrian Fletcher 2000-2015 - The contents may not be hotlinked, or reproduced without permission