St Benet's Abbey

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St Benet's Abbey is an abbey of the Order of Saint Benedict situated on the River Bure within The Broads in Norfolk England.[1] It is also known as St Benet's at Holme or Hulme.



St Benet's, according to abbey tradition, was founded on the site of a ninth-century monastery where the hermit Suneman was martyred by the Danes. About the end of the tenth century it was rebuilt by one Wulfric. A generation later, c. 1022, its estates of Horning, Ludham and Neatishead were confirmed by King Canute. Other early benefactors included Edith Swannesha, concubine to Harold Godwinson, and Earl Ralf II of East Anglia.

At the time of the Norman Conquest Harold Godwinson put the abbot of St Benet's, Aelfwold, in charge of defending the coast against invasion. After the Conquest, Aelfwold fled to Denmark, and the abbey's estates suffered encroachments by neighbouring landowners. The site was enclosed by a wall with battlements in 1327.

Sir John Fastolf, the inspiration for Shakespeare's Falstaff figure, was buried here in December 1459, next to his wife Millicent in a new aisle built by Fastolf on the South side of the abbey church.

St Benet's is the only religious house not closed down by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Instead he united the Abbacy with the bishopric of Norwich and therefore, the Bishops of Norwich have remained abbots of St Benet's to this day.

The Bishop of Norwich, as Abbot, arrives once a year, standing in the bow of a wherry and preaches at the annual service on the first Sunday of August.

After the Dissolution, the majority of the buildings at the site, with the exclusion of the gatehouse, were demolished. In the second half of the eighteenth century, a farmer built a windmill, later converted to a windpump, inside the abbey gatehouse, removing the second floor in the process. The windmill had ceased operating approximately a century later, falling into ruin itself. On 2 August 1987 a cross made from oak from the Royal Estate at Sandringham was erected on the High Altar.


The years listed are election dates[2]


Further reading

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