United Kingdom

Bath Abbey: Keeping Bath Holy Since 757 AD

Maybe that title is a bit of an exaggeration since Bath Abbey in its current state has only been around since 1499. Only. But there has been a church on the abbey’s premises since 757 AD. Two, actually – first an Anglo Saxon monastery and then a Norman cathedral that fell into ruins until Bishop Oliver King took over its rebuilding in 1499. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Bath Abbey In Bath, England

Bath Abbey – it’s one of the most famous tourist attractions in Bath, England. It’s also one of the easiest ones to find, located in the center of the city right next to the Roman Baths. Besides being a working church with hundreds of members in attendance, the abbey also sees close to half a million visitors come through its doors every year. (Entrance is free, but they do request a small donation of £2.50 if you’re able.) It’s a magnificent place with special details everywhere, but if it weren’t for the free walking tour we went on in Bath, I wouldn’t have a clue what any of it meant.

Bath Abbey In Bath, England

From the Abbey Church Yard, the large courtyard in Bath where everyone tends to congregate, you will be looking directly at the west front of Bath Abbey. You’ll see the heavy, decorated doors to the abbey with a large stone statue of Jesus Christ looking down from above them. These particular doors are hardly ever opened, normally only for big events. The real entrance is to the right.

Bath Abbey In Bath, England

Speaking of the doors, they are flanked by the statues of St Peter and St Paul. You’ll notice that one of the statues appears quite a bit shorter than the other. The unfortunate saint (I’m not sure if it’s Peter or Paul?) was beheaded during a particularly tumultuous time for Bath and a new head had to be formed for him out of what was left behind of his neck, leaving him with a more stooped appearance than that of his fellow saint.

Bath Abbey In Bath, England

Going back to when Bishop Oliver King took over the restoration of the church after it fell into disrepair under the Normans – much of the outside of the abbey looks as it does due to him. In the picture above, there are six figures carved into the church under canopies – the other side has the same. These figures represent the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. In between them are angels climbing a ladder to heaven. These were added because of a dream Oliver King had, similar to that of Jacob’s in the Old Testament, of angels ascending a ladder into heaven. (Someone needs to tell the third one down that she’s going the wrong way!)

Bath Abbey In Bath, England

This was the mark Oliver King left behind on the abbey to show his work in rebuilding it. The carvings are symbols for his name – Bishop (the bishop hat), Oliver (the olive tree), King (the crown surrounding the tree). Pretty creative, right?

Bath Abbey In Bath, England

Walking around to the other side of Bath Abbey, you’ll see the 150-year-old Rebecca Fountain. She was built by the Bath Temperance Association and inscribed with the words “Water Is Best” to promote morality and total abstinence from alcohol. At the time, the fountain was also a source of local drinking water, but when we visited she was all dried up.

Bath Abbey In Bath, England

From practically any spot around Bath Abbey, you’ve got a great view of some pretty stunning medieval architecture. I like how this picture shows off the abbey’s many pinnacles and the flying buttresses. Cory could tell you all kinds of things about the buttresses, but I’m just like, Hey look, those are cool! I did learn one thing from him before I dashed off to take another photo – the buttresses are there to provide support for the high vaulted ceilings on the inside. So even before you go in, you know the inside is going to be pretty spectacular.

Bath Abbey In Bath, England

Last picture before I close what has become a (possibly very boring) architecture/history lesson. This photo is from the back side of Bath Abbey, which doesn’t even really look like it could be the back side because it’s still so striking. This side of the abbey faces the River Avon where you’ll find Pulteney Bridge and other popular buildings in Bath, like the Guildhall. There are so many lovely photo opportunities in this section of the city!

Click here for Part 2: Inside Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey: Website
Address: Abbey Church Yard, Bath BA1 1LT

Did you enjoy this article or find it helpful? Save it for later on Pinterest!

Bath Abbey In Bath, England

Share this post:

  • Lauren
    October 14, 2013 at 4:06 AM

    Beautiful post! I love the history and all the information you shared!

  • Sara Louise
    October 11, 2013 at 6:05 PM

    Add this to the list of places I’d love to see! I love all of the details, especially the Bishop’s hat, olive tree, and crown, very clever! :)

  • Jacintha | Urban Pixxels
    October 10, 2013 at 6:40 PM

    I love these posts! Reminds me again that I need not only explore London but also the rest of the country. Bath is now definitely high on my list.

  • Shannon Broderick
    October 10, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    This is so beautiful! The Rebecca Fountain is so pretty-what a great place to visit! thanks for sharing :)

  • Emmymom
    October 10, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    No wonder why Europeans sometimes scoff at Americans and their lack of history, so crazy to think about how long the buildings have been around!

  • Janette Johanson
    October 10, 2013 at 6:59 AM

    I am just amazed at the ability of builders from hundreds of years ago. I barely understand how things are built today but can’t imagine how they did it back then. Its mind boggling. I wonder if that third angel was scared and turning back or if she was waiting for her friend coming behind her? Guess we’ll never know since it was a dream. She looks sortof creepy if I’m being honest…. This is a beautiful site!

  • Anna
    October 10, 2013 at 6:52 AM

    Beautiful. You’ve really captured it – which is something I always find really difficult to do with churches and places like this, they never quite live up to it in photos so I’m quite in awe. Bath looks amazing! Definitely making a trip there when back in the UK.

  • Connie Weiss
    October 10, 2013 at 1:28 AM

    I love this so much! I really need to visit England myself!

  • Jenn
    October 10, 2013 at 1:11 AM

    What a beautiful Abbey! I love anything with flying buttresses because you know it’s going to be spectacular if it has flying buttresses :)

  • Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi
    October 10, 2013 at 12:49 AM


  • Katrin
    October 10, 2013 at 12:17 AM

    Oh wow, it is so impressive! Thanks for sharing the great pictures, I can’t wait to see more!

  • Keith Wynn
    October 10, 2013 at 12:01 AM

    P.S. I have added so many places to my bucket list since discovering your blog :)

  • Keith Wynn
    October 10, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    The Rebecca Fountain looks absolutely ebautiful…

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    October 9, 2013 at 11:14 PM

    I’m not a religious person, but I love visiting the different Abbeys everywhere across England. They tend to be so grand, and the center of a city.

  • Alex Fahey
    October 9, 2013 at 10:58 PM

    Great information! When I went to Bath we didn’t have time to go inside the abbey so I just saw the front from the square, but I’ll have to go back and check it out! Great posts and beautiful photos!

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    October 9, 2013 at 10:53 PM

    Beautiful!! Yeah, that third angel seems to be going the wrong way!! Ha!

  • Selena Jones
    October 9, 2013 at 9:52 PM

    Great post, Sarah! I love the history lesson and the photos. Thanks for sharing!!