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Original Frontispiece of Reading Abbey - An Attempt at the Reconstruction of Reading Abbey

Watercolour by W.M.W Keesey - 1921

completed for accessibility and SEO

Original Frontispiece of Reading Abbey by W.M.W Keesey, 1921

Reading Abbey was founded by King Henry I in 1121. The Abbey was so grand that at the time it was the fourth largest church in Britain. Due to its large scale the Abbey took several decades to be completed. King Henry I died before the work was finally completed and was buried in the grounds of the Abbey. Once the roof had been placed, the Abbey was consecrated by Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Beckett in 1164. The presence of Reading Abbey was important for attracting those visiting on pilgrimage. Due to religious turmoil Reading Abbey was dissolved in 1539 under the leadership of King Henry VIII.

This imaginary bird’s-eye view of the abbey shows the wall around the Forbury which was known as the Plummery Wall marking the outer wall of the Abbey. The cloister can also be seen in the centre of this image, this was an area which protected the Monks from the weather; here they could walk between buildings and write manuscripts and songs. Some of the details of the buildings are now known to be incorrect due to more recent archaeological and architectural investigations.

In the top left corner is the coat of arms which features the scallop shells, this is a symbol which represents St James’ pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The scallop shell appeared on the Abbey’s seals around the early 13th century and can be found in various parts of Reading town centre including; the Town Hall and also on the University of Reading’s coat of arms.

Museum object number REDMG : 1928.245.1

height 16 inches

See related topic: Reading Abbey