In 1535 Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and Henry's right hand man, Thomas Cromwell, went on a royal tour. Henry and Anne stayed at nearby Sudeley Castle, while Thomas lodged at Hailes Abbey, founded in the 13th century.
Below the center arch of the ruins in the photo above is a long washbasin. The refectory door, where the monks dined, is on the right. Before entering the refectory, the monks would wash their hands in the basin, which was supplied with rainwater from pipes on the roof.
Perhaps Cromwell also washed and ate there, enjoying the hospitality of the abbot and the monks. Yet, on Christmas Eve in 1539 he sat on his horse on a hill above the abbey and watched as the destruction he had ordered began.
The history that led to the dissolution of the monasteries is long and complicated, with intrigue, greed, desire for control, lust and romance tangled together. Hilary Mantel authored Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, which tell the tale of Thomas Cromwell, his ascent to power and his decline.
On a warm July morning we wandered through the ruins, mostly alone, passing under arches and through doorways, trying to grasp the enormity of this place and something of the everyday lives of those who once lived here.
I had always assumed that these massive ruins and others like them were constructed of cut stone. How wrong I was. Rough stones are mortared together in thick walls as seen above, which are then faced with cut stone. Much more efficient.
Over the years, seeds lodged in the stones, took root, and grew so that the ruins appear to have tufts of fine, golden hair growing atop.
Sheep pasture undisturbed by history on the hills above the ruins. There is an informative museum on the site that explains the Abbey's story in more detail.
Water trickles through channels constructed long ago. Cow parsley waves in the wind, much as it did centuries past. Visiting history always leaves me with an awareness of my smallness in the grand scheme of things, but also aware that although technology advances, people's motivations and emotions remain the same.
Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life.