Thursday, September 20, 2012

Waltham Abbey Church

Waltham Abbey is dedicated to the Holy Cross and St. Lawrence. The Church stands at the heart of the community and has served the town for nearly 14 centuries. It welcomes pilgrims of every persuasion, those who seek to find peace and quiet, those who seek the nearer presence of God or those who are interested in the building and its extraordinary history. 

There have been several churches on this site, one of which was King Harold's Church consecrated in 1060. You will find a memorial to King Harold in the grounds behind the east end of the Church. 

This fine church is steeped in history. It has retained many features both inside and out from its early beginnings as a Saxon Church through the Norman and Plantagenet periods to the present day. The tower found at this Abbey, was the only church tower to be built in England during the reign of Mary Tudor.

On the south west corner of the church, a statue of King Harold who, according to tradition was buried in the church after his defeat at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The community of 13 secular canons established by Harold was replaced by one of 26 Augustinian canons in 1777, when Henry II re-founded and enlarged the church as part of his penance for the murder of Thomas Becket.

The pointed arches at the west end of the nave mark an attempt to modernise the church in the late 13th century, which had to be abandoned when the changes were found to be damaging the structure.

Waltham was the last of the English Abbeys to de dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540, because the present nave was separated by a low screen from the canons' buildings beyond, the people of the town were able to claim this part as their parish church and it remains so today.

Within the Abbey one can find the Lady Chapel. It was originally a funeral guild chapel built in the 14th century. The early 15th century Doom painting of the Day of Judgement on its east wall was rediscovered in the 19th century and the stained glass windows are from the 1930s.

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