Places To Visit


Hailes Abbey

Photo of Hailes Abbey

Biographical Info

Hailes Abbey is owned by the National Trust, but maintained and managed by English Heritage. There is a small car park opposite and Hayles Tea Rooms approx 1 mile further along the lane.

Dr Michael Carter, Senior Properties Historian for English Heritage, said: “Hailes Abbey was one of the last and greatest Cistercian abbeys to be founded in England. Thanks to the relic of the Holy Blood, the name of Hailes was familiar to popes and kings. Modern day visitors are following in the footsteps of the pilgrims who made long and arduous journeys to Hailes. Just like their medieval predecessors, they will be struck by the beauty of the abbey’s setting in the foothills of the Cotswolds.

The new museum contains artefacts of international significance and provides fascinating new insights into the abbey’s royal founder, medieval belief and piety and the daily routine of the generations of Cistercian monks who lived here, their way of life brought to a sudden end by Henry VIII in 1539.”

The abbey was founded in 1245 by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, called “King of the Romans” and the younger brother of King Henry III of England. He was granted the manor of Hailes by Henry, and settled it with Cistercian monks from Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire. The great Cistercian abbey was entirely built in a single campaign and was consecrated in a royal ceremony that included the King and Queen and 15 bishops. Hailes Abbey became a site of pilgrimage when Richard’s son Edmund donated to the Cistercian community a phial of the Holy Blood, purchased in Germany, in 1270. Such a relic of the Crucifixion was a considerable magnet for pilgrimage. From the proceeds, the monks of Hailes were able to rebuild the Abbey on a magnificent scale. Though King Henry VIII’s commissioners (conveniently) declared the famous relic to be nothing but the blood of a duck, regularly renewed, and though the Abbot Stephen Sagar admitted that the Holy Blood was a fake in hope of saving the Abbey, Hailes Abbey was one of the last religious institutions to acquiesce following the Dissolution Act of 1536. The Abbot and his monks finally surrendered their abbey to Henry’s commissioners on Christmas Eve 1539. Tewkesbury Abbey nearby avoided the fate of Hailes, because the parishioners of Tewkesbury bought it for a parish church.

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