Ancient Monuments

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Tintern Abbey, Inner Precinct

A Scheduled Monument in Tintern (Tyndyrn), Monmouthshire (Sir Fynwy)

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Latitude: 51.697 / 51°41'49"N

Longitude: -2.6772 / 2°40'37"W

OS Eastings: 353291

OS Northings: 200020

OS Grid: SO532000

Mapcode National: GBR JM.479B

Mapcode Global: VH87F.KL1Y

Entry Name: Tintern Abbey, Inner Precinct

Scheduled Date:

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 4375

Cadw Legacy ID: MM102

Schedule Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Category: Abbey

Period: Medieval

County: Monmouthshire (Sir Fynwy)

Community: Tintern (Tyndyrn)

Traditional County: Monmouthshire


The monument consists of a Cistercian abbey, a Christian monastery or convent under the government of an Abbot or an Abbess, dating to the medieval period. Tintern Abbey was only the second Cistercian foundation in Britain, and the first in Wales, and was founded on the 9th May 1132 by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow. It soon prospered, thanks to endowments of land in Gwent and Gloucestershire, and buildings were added and updated in every century until its dissolution in 1536. However, it was never very large or important, and it's history was relatively uneventful. It's position well away from the Welsh heartland meant that it suffered little in the periodic Welsh uprisings of the medieval period.

Tintern was always closely associated with the Lords of Chepstow, who were often generous benfactors. The most generous was Roger Bigod III, grandson of William Marshal's daughter Maud; his monumental undertaking was the rebuilding of the church in the late 13th century. In gratitude, the abbey put his coat of arms in the glass of its east window. It is the ruins of Roger's church that dominate the site today. Of the first buildings, which date from the 12th century, very little remains above ground. The church in this period was smaller than Roger Bigod's 13th century building, and lay slightly to the north.

During the 13th century the abbey was more or less completely rebuilt, starting in about 1220 with the cloisters and domestic ranges around them, and finishing with the great church. The entrance to the precinct was on the west side of the cloisters. To the north was a cellar and the lay brothers range of refectory and dormitory. Along the north side of the cloisters were the kitchen, the monks refectory and the warming room, while along the east side were the novices lodgings, the sacristy and chapter house. To the east of the cloisters range was the infirmary cloister with the latrines, infirmary hall and Abbot's hall and private lodgings arranged around it.

Tintern's crowning glory, its great church, was built between 1269 and 1301. It has a simple cruciform plan, with an aisled nave, trancepts each with two chapels, and a square-ended aisled chancel. Cistercian rule and liturgy dictated the presence of internal divisions (which have disappeared); the aisles were walled off and three cross walls divided the body of the church into two main sections - the nave, reserved for lay brothers, and the choir and presbytery at the east end for the choir monks. The fine west wall is divided into three stages, with twin doorways and traceried arches in the lowest, a great severn-light window in the middle and a smaller arched window at the top. This end, and the western part of the south side may have been finished after Roger Bigod III's death in 1306. Several Lords of Chepstow and their relations are buried in the church, together with William Herbert of Raglan Castle who was buried here after his execution in 1469.

The main abbey buildings were contained within a walled precinct of 11ha within which there were many other, secular, buildings. The remains of some, including the guesthouse, have been exposed to the west of the church. In the 18th century the Wye valley became renowned for its picturesque qualities and Tintern Abbey, then swathed in ivy, was rediscovered and visited by many famous individuals including JMW Turner and William Wordsworth.

The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of the organisation and practice of medieval Christianity. The site forms an important element within the wider medieval landscape. It retains significant archaeological potential, with a strong probability of the presence of associated archaeological features and deposits. The structure itself may be expected to contain archaeological information concerning chronology and building techniques.

The scheduled area comprises the remains described and areas around them within which related evidence may be expected to survive.

Source: Cadw

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