October 14 will be the 950th anniversary of the most celebrated battle in English history. looks at the building that directly connects us with this seismic event
Battle Abbey, Kent A property of English Heritage
TO strengthen the hearts and hands of you who are about to fight for me, I make a vow that on this very battlefield I shall found a monastery for the salvation of all, and especially for those who fall here… a fitting monastery with a worthy liberty. Let it be an atonement.’ So, according to the Chronicle of Battle Abbey, did William the Conqueror address his men as they prepared for battle at Hastings on October 14, 1066. This text, written by an anonymous Benedictine monk about a century later, cannot be read uncritically, but it offers a compelling account of how this monastery came into being.
One of those who heard the Duke speak, the Chronicle explains, was a monk from Marmoutier, one William, nicknamed ‘the Smith’. After the battle, William pressed the victorious