Dominating the city centre, Grade I listed Bath Abbey is one of the largest examples of perpendicular Gothic architecture in the West Country and it is noted for its fan vaulting and its 52 windows, which comprise 80% of the abbey’s wall space.
The parish church was founded on the site in the 7th century and it was rebuilt in the 11th and 16th centuries with major restoration completed in the 18th century by Sir George Gilbert Scott.
Bath Abbey is a historically significant church. Its origins date back to 675 AD when King Osric of Hwicce grated Abbess Berta land to establish a convent, which was taken by King Offa of Mercia in 781. In 973 Edgar the Peaceful was crowned King of the English at the abbey, although Edgar had already been king for 14 years by the time of his coronation. Edgar’s coronation, organised by St Dunstan, was considered the pinnacle of his reign and this formed the basis of the modern coronation ceremony.
What to see at Bath Abbey
Bath Abbey is one of the largest examples of perpendicular Gothic architecture in the West Country and its architectural features include a fan-vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows.
The beautiful fan-vaulted ceiling is one of the most striking features of Bath Abbey. This dates from the early 1500s and was built by architects Robert and William Vertue; however, it was constructed over a long period of time with the more recent sections only completed in the 17th century. Robert and William Vertue also designed a similar fan-vaulted ceiling for the Henry VII chapel at Westminster Abbey.Another notable feature of the Bath Abbey is its stained glass windows, which take up 80% of the wall space. The King Edgar Window is the highlight of the abbey’s 52 windows and depicts Edgar’s coronation in 973 as the first king of all England.
The abbey’s Gethsemane Chapel is a small chapel dedicated to remembrance featuring an Amnesty candle and a book of remembrance that records the details of Bath residents killed during the Second World War.
There are 1,482 memorials at Bath Abbey, which represent a cross-section of society from regular working-class people to wealthy industrialists and it also includes memorials to notable figures such as celebrated 18th-century social figure, Beau Nash, the developer of Pitman shorthand, Isaac Pitman and the first governor of New South Wales, Admiral Arthur Phillip. These memorials are comprised of 635 wall tablets (only Westminster Abbey has more) and 847 memorials set into the floor of the abbey.The 49m- (161 ft)-high tower is accessible via 212 steps and it features a ring of 10 bells. The tower can only be visited by a 45–50-minute guided tour and these tours are currently suspended due to Covid-19 guidelines.
Visiting Bath Abbey
Bath Abbey is in the historic centre of Bath and most points of interest in the city centre are no more than a 10-minute walk away.
Admission is by a suggested £5 donation, which goes towards running and maintaining the abbey as well as for various charity projects. There is an additional charge for tours of the abbey’s tower.
Most areas of Bath Abbey are wheelchair accessible with the exception of the tower, which is accessible only via a narrow spiral stone staircase.
The abbey has its own on-site gift shop and its location in the historic centre of Bath means that there are plenty of places to eat and drink nearby.
Although it is possible to make a quick visit in just 15 minutes, a visit of half an hour to an hour is more reasonable if want to properly appreciate the abbey.