The West door of Bath Abbey and Anne Bolyen

You can no longer use the West door to enter Bath Abbey except on special occasions. At first glance it seems to be a standard issue cathedral door.  It was carved from a single piece of wood and given to the abbey in 1617. 

The huge carved wooden west door of Bath abbey
West door of Bath abbey

The West door of Bath Abbey dates to an interesting point in English history. I think we can thank or blame Anne Boleyn for it. King Henry VIII wanted to divorce his first wife Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne but the pope was vehemently opposed to the idea. Henry could see only one way round the problem. He would create his own church with himself as head. This also meant he could seize the land and goods belonging to the monasteries and convents.

Before surrendering the abbey the people of Bath had the good sense to take the lead from the roof, the glass from the windows and strip the building of useful stone and timber. You can often find the remains of Bath abbey in local buildings. A farm near me has a fine statue of Ceres the goddess of the harvest and the area is still known as Sally on the barn.

Eventually the ruined abbey was given to the people of Bath by Anne Boleyn’s daughter Queen Elizabeth 1st as their parish church.

The West Door

The west door was donated by the Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Lord Chief Justice Sir Henry Montague. You can see the Montague Coat of Arms on the door. A verse of Psalm 132 is carved on the door in Latin which is quite suprising as one of the complaints about the Catholic church is that ordinary people could not understand the Latin mass and the King James English bible had recently been published and a copy sent to the important churches.

Ecce quam bonum et quam jacundum est
(Behold how good and Pleasing it is.)
The West front of Bath Abbey showing the west door.
Bath Abbey (West front)

Bath Abbey itself dates from 675 when King Osric gave land near the Roman Baths to Abbess Barbara. Interestingly there is a project on at the moment to use the hot mineral water to provide underfloor heating for the abbey. I think the Romans would have approved. If you visit Bath take a good look round it is beautiful inside and out. The interior is an example of medieval gothic.

This post will be added to Thursday doors, a weekly feature where door lovers round the world come together to share pictures of doors and the stories behind them.

Today being Thursday, fellow door lovers can see more doors by visiting Dan’s No facilities site: for today’s door offerings

Author: Anne Fraser

I am a retired nurse from Bristol. I am married with five grown up children, two grandchildren, a boy and a girl and two cats Heidi and Tilly. I like rambling, history and travel and I am hoping to connect with other people around the world who share my interests. I am especially keen to hear from other older bloggers.

7 thoughts on “The West door of Bath Abbey and Anne Bolyen”

  1. The door and the Abbey itself are amazing. Truly astounding to have any part of a project dating back that far, still standing. Thanks for adding the interesting history.


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