Waltham Abbey (abbey)

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The Abbey Church of Waltham Abbey has been a place of worship since at least 1030, and is in the town of Waltham Abbey, Essex, England. The Prime Meridian passes through its grounds. Harold Godwinson is said to be buried just outside the present abbey. Cheshunt Great House was located nearby.[1]



Waltham Abbey was founded in 1030 to house a Holy Rood or Cross that was the subject of pilgrimage[2]. Legend says that at Montacute near Glastonbury, an Anglo-Danish Thegn called Tovi the Proud found a large black flint crucifix buried at the top of a hill, following a dream. He loaded the cross onto an ox-cart, but the oxen would only go in one direction and didn't stop until they reached Waltham, a journey of some 150 miles[3]. Harold Godwinson (later King Harold II) rebuilt, refounded and richly endowed the church in 1060; a legend says that this was because in his childhood, he had been miraculously cured of paralysis by the Holy Cross[4]. He stopped to pray at Waltham on his way to fight William of Normandy, and the battle-cry of the English troops at Hastings was "Holy Cross". After the battle, Harold's corpse is said to have been brought back to the abbey and buried there.[5] Harold's work was demolished and a new church was built in the Norman style in about 1120[6]. In 1177, Henry II again refounded the Abbey, this time as an Augustinian foundation, as part of his penance for the murder of Thomas Becket. At this point extensive additional building works were carried out, although the nature and extent of these still await detailed research. The rebuilding, in the Early English style, made the abbey far more extensive than the original Norman establishment, as can be seen today from traces in the abbey grounds.

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