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Reading Abbey
Third Richest Monastery in the Country

Reading Abbey -  Nash Ford Publishing


  • Reading Abbey was built for King Henry I in 1121. He wanted to be buried there and he was. Though the Church was still incomplete.

  • During the Civil War between Henry's daughter, Matilda, and her cousin, King Stephen, a wooden castle was built in the grounds.

  • Matilda had been to St. James' shrine (tomb) in Spain to see his dead body. She pulled off his hand and gave it to the monks at Reading! The hand was supposed to cure people of many diseases and disabilities. So lots of pilgrims came to see it. They gave the monks money and made the Abbey very rich.

  • At first, the monks at Reading were Cluniacs. Later, they became Benedictines.

  • The Abbey Church probably looked something like Southwell Cathedral. It was opened by St. Thomas Becket. He was the Archbishop of Canterbury who was hacked to pieces in his Cathedral because he wouldn't do what the King wanted!

  • In Medieval times, Parliament sometimes met in the Chapter House and Refectory at Reading Abbey. This was particularly when there was plague in London.

  • The Patriarch of Jerusalem came from the Middle East to visit King Henry II at Reading Abbey. He begged him to become King of Jerusalem and keep out the Muslims. This sounded very expensive. So Henry said no thank you.

  • Three of King Edward III's children were married at the Abbey: Prince Lionel, Prince John of Gaunt and Princess Margaret. During the War of the Roses, Edward IV chose it as the place to announce to the World that he had secretly married a poor knight's daughter.

  • In Tudor Times, King Henry VIII decided that he wanted all the wealth of the monasteries. He 'dissolved' them.

  • The monks were kicked out of their home. Their gold and treasures were seized. The buildings were torn down and the stone sold off. At Reading, the last Abbot was even hanged!

  • Queen Elizabeth I used the old Abbot's Lodgings as a palace for a while. She later let her relative, Sir Francis Knollys, live there.

  • Only the Abbey's Inner Gateway and the 'Hospitium' Dormitory remain at Reading today. There are also some ruins of the church, chapter house, dormitory and reredorter off the Forbury Gardens.

Click to Explore Reading Abbey


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