Abbeys and Priories
Author Stephen Platten
Publisher Pitkin £9.99
Bishop Stephen Platten has used his considerable academic strengths to make this ‘coffee table’ guide to the abbeys and priories of Britain much more than a mere travelogue. He has carefully woven together British history (from Celtic, Saxon and Medieval times) with a knowledge of monastic life to produce a pleasant tapestry of these precious surviving buildings. They are listed according to Britain’s ancient kingdoms – Northumbria, Mercia and so on. Scotland and Wales are not forgotten. Most of these buildings are of course roofless ruins or foundations, but all have retained a certain grandeur. The introduction covers the development of early church monastic communities and the monastic tradition from its Benedictine roots. It is brilliant, but too brief I felt; I was eager for more detail. The many pictures are stunning and often taken at unusual angles, so that well known and familiar buildings like Tintern, Lindesfarne and Rievaulx seem to take on new life. This is a recommended gift, a book for tourists, pilgrims and for all who are interested in British Christian history.
Reviewed by ELIZABETH STEPHENSON