St John's Abbey, Colchester

Colchester, United Kingdom

St John's Abbey, Colchester


St John's Abbey, also called Colchester Abbey, was a Benedictine monastic institution in Colchester, Essex, founded in 1095. It was dissolved in 1539. Most of the abbey buildings were subsequently demolished to construct a large private house on the site, which was itself destroyed in fighting during the 1648 siege of Colchester. The only substantial remnant is the elaborate gatehouse, while the foundations of the abbey church were only rediscovered in 2010.

The site of the abbey, to the south of the walled part of the town near the road to Mersea Island, was originally the location of a Saxon church dedicated to either St John the Baptist or St John the Evangelist. This church was supposedly where "miraculous voices" could be heard. The Saxon church was excavated in the 1970s, and was revealed to be a three celled structure built from Roman rubble. Originally it was thought that the church began life as a Late Roman martyrium, although it was later concluded that this was an error based on the fact that the church had been built on a former Roman cemetery, rather than as part of it. The final priest of the church was a man called Siric or Sigeric at the time of the Domesday Survey. Following the Norman conquest of England in 1066 the town eventually came into the possession of Eudo Dapifer, steward of William I and King William II. Eudo claimed to have witnessed a miracle at St John's Church in 1095, and used this as an excuse to found a Benedictine monastery on the site. He obtained the support of the Bishop of London in 1096, and began work on the monastery to the north of the original church.

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