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Hexham Abbey

Northumberland

Architecture, Religion

Hexham Abbey was founded in 1133 but largely rebuilt in the mid 1200s in an austere and elegant Early English style. It is by far the most richly decorated medieval church in Northumberland.

But despite its medieval legacy, Hexham’s greatest surprise is far older. The original church was built by Saint Wilfrid in the 7th century and was described by one contemporary as the finest church in Europe north of the Alps. Only fragments of it remain, but they are all worthy of notice. There is a finely preserved 8th century cross, and a quite perfect 7th century stone seat.

But the greatest treasure of all lies beneath the floor of the nave. The Crypt is the only remaining part of the original 7th century church. It was built to display relics of St Andrew (specifically the Saint’s kneebone) which Wilfrid had acquired in Rome. There is a warren of little rooms and corridors, dark and immensely atmospheric, built of Roman stones some of them with fragments of Roman inscriptions and decoration. It is by far the most moving monument of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria.

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