Once upon a time, I followed my husband Jonathan on his business travel to London. We rented a car. We drove to Tintern Abbey, in Wales, on the River Wye.
Well, Jonathan drove our British rental car on the left side of the road. Jonathan maneuvered the traffic circles (roundabouts). I navigated.
Here’s the first road sign that we saw after we crossed the line into Wales. Note that the first three lines of this sign are in Welsh and the final three lines are in English:
WHEN RED LIGHT
We almost didn’t tour Tintern Abbey.
The government runs this landmark as a day-use attraction, so it closes before the sun sets. The staff ends ticket sales 30 minutes before the attraction closes for the day. We got lost and then we arrived at Tintern Abbey about an hour before it closed.
But we made it!
Cistercian monks established and maintained Tintern Abbey between 1131- 1536. Tintern Abbey closed in 1536 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Here are some of the things that happened:
1.) The monarchs in England used to be Roman Catholic.
2.) The Protestant Reformation began in Saxony (Germany) in 1517.
3.) Henry VIII of England wanted to end his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon in 1533 so that he could marry Anne Boleyn.
4.) Henry VIII rejected papal supremacy. Parliament passed a law establishing Henry as the head of the Church of England.
5.) In the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry closed all of the monasteries, including Tintern Abbey.
6.) Henry’s agents stripped the monastic property of anything and everything valuable, including the lead roof.
(In Anya Seton’s novel Green Darkness, one of the main characters lived as an English monk in a different Catholic monastery. Henry VIII also closed this monastery during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The novel detailed how Henry VIII’s officials plundered that monastery of its valuables and banished the monks. At least one of these monks fled to France. Many of them remained in England but hid from the Protestants during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI. The King’s officials grew their own wealth by closing the monasteries. See my prior blog post about Anya Seton.)
The band Iron Maiden filmed their music video for “Can I Play with Madness” partly at Tintern Abbey.
Jane Austen shouts-out to Tintern Abbey in her novel Mansfield Park.
Wikipedia taught me that Allen Ginsburg tripped on acid here in 1967 and then wrote his poem Wales Visitation.
William Wordsworth also wrote a poem about Tintern Abbey.
The Wye Valley Railway established a station near the Abbey in 1876. Though prior tourists visited Tintern by boat, fashionable Victorians could now access it by train.
We left the Abbey and grabbed dinner at a local pub. Other patrons spoke Welsh to each other.
We drove through the rural darkness back to London.
Watch for my upcoming blog posts about my adventures in travel.