Buckfast Abbey

Buckfast Abbey

Buckfast Abbey forms part of an active Benedictine monastery at Buckfastleigh, Devon, England. Dedicated to Saint Mary, it was founded in 1018 and run by the Cistercian order from 1147 until it was destroyed under the Dissolution of the Monasteries. In 1882 monks began living there again, and today it is a Benedictine foundation.


Buckfast Abbey was founded by Earl Aylward in the reign of King Cnut in 1018. In 1147 it became a Cistercian abbey and was rebuilt in stone. In medieval times, the abbey became rich through fishing and trading in sheep wool, although the Black Death killed two abbots and many monks - by 1377 there were only fourteen monks at Buckfast.

On 25 February 1539, William Petre arrived at Buckfast and declared the abbey to be dissolved by the order of King Henry VIII. The monks were compelled to leave and the buildings were looted, then destroyed. The abbey then stood in ruins for over two hundred years.

On 28 October 1882, six Benedictine monks arrived at Buckfast having been exiled from France. The land had been leased by monks from the St.Augustine's Priory in Ramsgate and it was later bought for £4,700. The first new abbot was Boniface Natter, who died in a shipwreck in 1906. His travelling companion Anscar Vonier became the next abbot and pledged to fulfil his dying wish, namely to rebuild the abbey.


The monks lived among the ruins and gradually rebuilt the abbey church upon the foundations of the abbey constructed in 1147. The church itself was restored between 1905 and 1937. Over the thirty two years, there were never more than six monks working on the project at any one time, although the whole community had repaired the ancient foundations up to ground level. Construction methods were primitive - wooden scaffolding was held together by ropes and no safety protection was worn by the monks. One monk fell 50 feet but survived and three monks fell off a hoist without serious injury in 1931. Construction continued through World War I, with the German monks being unable under local law to leave the abbey grounds.

The Abbey was consecrated on 25 August 1932, but the building was finally finished with the laying of the last stone in late 1937.

elf sufficiency

The Abbey is self-supporting, with a farm where vegetables are grown and bees, pigs and cattle are kept, a shop which sells wine, honey beeswax, fudge and other items made by religious communities throughout the world, and a gift shop, book shop, and restaurant.

Buckfast tonic wine

The monastery's most successful product is Buckfast Tonic Wine, a strong tonic wine which the monks began making (to a French recipe) in the 1890s. The strength of "Buckfast", and its misuse, have been a controversial issue for the abbey.


Brother Adam (born Karl Kehrle in 1898 in Germany, died in 1996) was put in charge of the Abbey's beekeeping, and began importing resistant stock from other nations, creating a vigorous parasite resistant hybrid honeybee known as the Buckfast bee among beekeepers.


From 1967 until 1994, the abbey ran a prep school for boys aged 7 to 13. [ [http://www.buckfast.org.uk/site.php?use=history History of Buckfast Abbey] ] Two former monks were later convicted and imprisoned for sexually abusing boys during this period. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/devon/7085067.stm Monk jailed for schoolboys abuse] (BBC News)] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/devon/6972151.stm Jail for child sex abuse teacher] (BBC News)]

The grounds

There is a conference and seminar centre, and a restaurant (the Grange). On the west side of the Abbey are two gardens with plants ranging from herbs used in cooking or medicine to poisonous plants. Behind the public area is an enclosed garden for the monks. A bridge leads over the river to the abbey farm.


*Clutterbuck, Robin "Buckfast Abbey - A History" ISBN 0-9511806-1-4
*Heald, Claire [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/5381360.stm "Binge drinking - the Benedictine connection"] , "BBC News", 26 September, 2006, retrieved 8 October, 2006.

External links

* [http://www.buckfast.org.uk Buckfast Abbey]

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