Bath, Abbey of

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Anglo-Saxon Benedictine monastery in Bath, England (patron, St. Peter). The early history of Bath is obscure and involved in the complicated politics of the Mercian hegemony. It was founded probably by the underking of the Hwicce in the last quarter of the 7th century as a convent of nuns. Apparently the nunnery did not prosper, if indeed it was ever a real community at all, and it came into the possession of the local bishop of worcester. In the 8th century the great Mercian king Offa took it from the bishop of Worcester and soon after some kind of genuine monastic community was found there. Bath did not prosper for long, and during the Viking wars it again became derelict. In the 10th century King Edmund gave the estates to a group of secular clerks who had been expelled from a monastery in Flanders by the reformer gerard of brogne. The abbey was reformed again, probably by oswald of york, and turned into one of the greatest English abbeys in King Edgar's reign. Although it is said that the martyr alphege of canterbury was abbot of St. Peter's in Bath, he was actually the abbot of a smaller, quite distinct community at Bath. After the Conquest, St. Peter's was largely destroyed in the rebellion following the death of William the Conqueror in 1087. At the same time it was decided to move the local see from Wells to Bath, and St. Peter's was rebuilt and henceforth became the seat of the bishops of bath and wells.

Bibliography: w. dugdale, Monasticon Anglicanum (London 165573); best ed. by j. caley et al., 6 v. (181730) 2:256273. d. knowles and r. n. hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales (New York 1953) 59, 253. d. knowles, The Monastic Order in England, 9431216 (2d ed. Cambridge, Eng. 1962), passim. d. knowles, The Religious Orders in England, 3 v. (Cambridge, Eng. 194860), passim.

[e. john]