There are many incredible historic abbeys across the globe which can still be visited today. In fact the list of abbeys around the world contains some of the most spectacular historic sites to visit, with many having witnessed momentous moments in history as well as being remarkable historical buildings.
An abbey itself is a monastery or a convent which has grown up with an Abbot or Abbess as the leader of the community. While not all monasteries were abbeys, all abbeys were monasteries or convents. Many abbeys were a vital centre of local scholarship and trade and there are many examples of abbeys which often found themselves at the heart of the local community. In some cases entire towns would grow up around an abbey.
Today, while many abbeys remain as centres of religious life others – for example Westminster Abbey – have seen their function change over the centuries. Often abbeys found themselves at the forefront of religious and political change, with many abbeys being closed or re-dedicated during times of upheaval, particularly in Europe.
For those wishing to explore the list of abbeys around the world, our selection of historic abbeys below can provide a good starting point. Remember, you can always shortlist abbeys of the world as you go and build your own personalised pocket guidebook to take with you on your tour.
The Abbaye aux Hommes is an 11th century Romanesque abbey church in Caen, Normandy, known for being William the Conqueror’s gravesite.
The Abbaye aux Hommes in Caen, also known as the Abbey of Saint-Étienne, is a beautiful 11th century Romanesque abbey church known for being William the Conqueror’s gravesite. Consecrated in 1077, William built the Abbaye aux Hommes as atonement for his marriage to Matilda of Flanders, which the Pope had... Read More
An 11th century abbey in Marseille, Abbaye Saint-Victor has a fascinating crypt housing a number of early Christian tombs.
Abbaye Saint-Victor is an eleventh century abbey in Marseille dedicated to the Roman soldier turned Christian martyr, Saint Victor. There were originally two such abbeys in Marseille, built in the mid-fifth century, but both were destroyed by the Saracens in the eighth or ninth century. Two centuries were to pass... Read More
Though now a cathedral, the Basilica of St Denis was originally an abbey dedicated to Saint Denis. It is one of many abbeys in the world to have become a place of pilgrimage.
The Basilica of St Denis (Basilique Saint-Denis) in Paris, France is a cathedral basilica named after France’s patron saint. In fact, the place where Basilica of St Denis stands is believed to the site where Saint Denis, also known as Saint Dionysius, was buried after his death in around 275... Read More
An abbey with a turbulent history, Bath Abbey went through a number of versions before being destroyed by Henry VIII in the 15th century and restored under Elizabeth I.
Bath Abbey is an imposing medieval church built from 1499 on the site of a once vast but ruined Norman cathedral. In fact, the first church to be built on the site of Bath Abbey was an eighth century Anglo-Saxon church torn down by the Normans after 1066 and replaced... Read More
Location of the famous Battle of Hastings, this beautiful former abbey is now a museum dedicated to exploring the events of that famous day in 1066.
Battle Abbey and Battlefield, also known as 'Hastings Battlefield', was the site of the Battle of Hastings in October 1066. The Battle of Hasting saw William, Duke of Normandy, become William I, King of England after defeating King Harold II, who was killed in the conflict. William I is also known... Read More
One of many historic abbeys in England, Bayham Old Abbey was a medieval monastery closed by Henry VIII and now in a state of ruin.
A 13th century monastery of the Catholic Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré, the ruins of Bayham Old Abbey are located on the Kent-Sussex border. Dissolved in the sixteenth century during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, Bayham Old Abbey’s original structure can still be made out from the partial remains... Read More
Beaulieu Abbey is an early 13th century historic monastic complex, partially destroyed in the reign of Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The site is home to the National Motor Museum.
Nestled in the picturesque New Forest National Park, the ruins of Beaulieu Abbey represent what remains of an early 13th century monastic complex which was partially destroyed in the reign of Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Today, visitors can explore the remains of Beaulieu Abbey along with the... Read More
Byland Abbey was a prominent twelfth century monastery which now lies as a pretty ruin in Yorkshire.
The ruins of the 12th century Byland Abbey rank among the most picturesque historic sites in England. As can be expected of an English monastery, Byland Abbey has endured a turbulent history. Book-ended by a difficult beginning and the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII at the end, Byland was... Read More
Carmo Convent is a ruined medieval convent in Lisbon now used as an museum.
Carmo Convent (Convento do Carmo) is a part-ruined medieval convent in Lisbon now used as an archaeological museum. Built in 1389, Carmo Convent was the work of Nuno Ãlvares Pereira, an important figure in Portuguese military history - including in the victory at the Battle of Aljubarrota - turned member of... Read More
A good example of abbeys which have been used as a centre for royalty, Dunfermline Abbey and Palace was a royal residence and the burial site of several Scottish monarchs.
Dunfermline Abbey and Palace have a royal connection dating back to the eleventh century, when a priory was established there under Queen Margaret (now known as St Margaret). This was elevated to being an abbey in around 1150 by her son, David I. The picturesque remains of Dunfermline Abbey - now just... Read More
An interesting addition to any list of abbeys, Einsiedeln Abbey is a beautiful Benedictine monastery with a history dating to the ninth century AD.
Einsiedeln Abbey (Kloster Einsiedeln) is a picturesque Baroque style Benedictine monastery with an illustrious history dating to the 9th century AD. Founded in 835AD by a monk called Meinrad - later murdered by robbers - Einsiedeln Abbey flourished into a cultural hub and a great pilgrimage site. Its chapel... Read More
Consecrated as an abbey in 1325AD, Fonte Avellana is a picturesque medieval hermitage in Italy which is still a working monastery.
Fonte Avellana is a medieval hermitage nestled amongst the mountains of Serra Sant'Abbondio in Italy's Le Marche region. Also known as the Venerable Hermitage of the Holy Cross, Fonte Avellana has a rich history, including being described in Dante's Divine Comedy. Founded in around 1000AD, Fonte Avellana was originally home to an... Read More
One of the most famous abbeys of the world, Fountains Abbey was a thriving monastery until Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries left it in ruins.
Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, UK, was founded in 1132 after thirteen monks were exiled from St. Mary’s Abbey. The archbishop of York, Thurstan, gave these monks new land on which to found their own monastery and, despite the rough nature of the site, their newly built monastery was admitted to... Read More
Renowned for its stained glass windows, Fraumunster is a medieval church and former convent which is one of the most famous sites in Zurich.
Fraumunster (Church of Our Lady) is one of the most famous churches in Zurich. First built by King Louis the German in 853AD, most of the current site dates from the mid-13th century, when the Abbess Judenta Hagenbuch undertook renovations of Fraumunster. Fraumunster is now famous for several aspects,... Read More
Furness Abbey is a partially ruined 12th century monastery which now operates as a tourist attraction and museum.
The imposing remains of the twelfth century Furness Abbey today stand as a testament to the sheer scale of these early medieval English monasteries. Founded in 1124 by the future King Stephen, the construction of Furness Abbey began three years later and was expanded over the next hundred years. During this... Read More
Ranking among the most important historic abbeys in Britain, Glastonbury Abbey is the legendary burial place of King Arthur.
Glastonbury Abbey is one of the most important historic abbeys in Britain and the focal point of myth, legend and important historical events. Although the original stone church of Glastonbury Abbey was constructed by Saxon King Ine of Wessex in around 712AD, the site has a history said to trace... Read More
An impressive abbey in the UK, Inchcolm Abbey is a 12th century monastery turned abbey located in an important defensive position.
Inchcolm Abbey was established as an Augustinian monastery in the twelfth century by David I, becoming an abbey in 1235. During the wars between England and Scotland, the location of Inchcolm Abbey meant that it was constantly under attack. The island of Inchcolm Abbey continued to play a defensive role in... Read More
The ruins of the 12th Century Cistercian monastery of Jervaulx Abbey, situated in the picturesque Yorkshire Dales.
A beautiful spot to explore, the ruins of the 12th century monastery of Jervaulx Abbey are situated in the picturesque Yorkshire Dales. Founded in 1156, Jervaulx was a Cistercian abbey, spawned from the abbey at Byland, which is situated not far from Jervaulx and would make for an excellent same-day visit.... Read More
Best known for its stunning Romanesque Benedictine Abbey, Mont Saint-Michel is an imposing rocky outcrop in Normandy which contains a number of interesting historic sites.
Mont Saint-Michel is an imposing historic village in Normandy, France which dominates the skyline from its position atop a small rocky island. Joined to the coast via a causeway, Mont Saint-Michel is best known for its Benedictine Abbey and Parish Church. A settlement in Roman times, Mont Saint-Michel was... Read More
A fifteenth century nunnery of the order of St. Bridget, Pirita Convent now stands as a picturesque ruin and is an interesting example of ruined abbeys around the world.
Pirita Convent (Pirita klooster) was an important 15th century nunnery of the order of St. Bridget and now stands as a picturesque ruin in modern-day Estonia. At the time it was constructed, the city of Tallinn - where it was based - was already a trading hub and the idea... Read More
Built in the 11th century, Saint-Remi Abbey houses the tomb of Saint Remi and is one of many abbeys around the world to be UNESCO listed.
Saint-Remi Abbey is a UNESCO listed historic Benedictine abbey in Reims which was built in the eleventh century and renovated in the twelfth century. Upon its construction, Saint-Remi Abbey replaced the former St Christopher’s Chapel in housing the relics of Saint Remi (440-533 AD), an archbishop of Gaul who famously baptised... Read More
An important stop on any list of abbeys, Sainte-Foy Abbey in Conques was one of the places along the historic pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.
Sainte-Foy Abbey, also known as Conques Abbey and Abbey de Sainte Foy, was one of the churches along the medieval pilgrimage route to the Spanish cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The main reason for this was that Sainte-Foy Abbey has held the relics of its namesake, Sainte Foye, since the... Read More
The Temple of Saint Augustin is a 16th-century abbey in Acolman in Mexico.
The Temple of Saint Augustin, known as Templo y Ex-Convento de San Agustin, is a sixteenth century historic church in the village of Acolman in Mexico. Constructed by Augustinian friars between 1539 and 1560, San Agustin is a great example of sixteenth century architecture, particularly its façade, which exhibits a plateresque-style... Read More
In existence since 1069, Selby Abbey has been used for worship for over 900 years. Not especially well known despite being its beauty and archaic stance, Selby is nevertheless among the most impressive medieval abbeys today.
Selby Abbey is a beautiful Norman church in the heart of Yorkshire, England, with a history dating back to 1069AD. The original Selby Abbey was constructed towards the end of the 11th century after a monk, known as Benedict of Auxerre, had a vision whereupon he was called by St. Germain... Read More
Consecrated in 1148, St Matthias Abbey houses the grave of its namesake, the apostle, St Mathias.
St Matthias Abbey (Benediktiner abtei St. Matthias) is a twelfth century church and the site of the tomb of the apostle St Matthias, who succeeded Judas. Also located at St Matthias Abbey, which was consecrated in 1148, is a Roman cemetery housing the final resting places of the first bishops of... Read More
St. Anna’s Church of Kokar is a pretty stone church in Aland and renowned for its fourteenth century Franciscan convent.
St. Anna’s Church of Kokar is a pretty, whitewashed stone church in Aland built in 1784 and renowned for its 14th century Finnish Franciscan convent. The ruins of the convent are still visible today and visitors can see where the monks who lived there once worked. St. Anna’s Church of Kokar... Read More
Also known as Vezelay Abbey, Vezelay Basilica is a 12th century Romanesque church once said to have housed Mary Magdalene’s relics.
Vezelay Basilica, also known as Vezelay Abbey or Basilique Ste-Madeleine, has been a place of pilgrimage since it was claimed that the relics of Mary Magdalene had been brought there, sometime before the twelfth century. Whilst it is unlikely that this was really the case, Vezelay Basilica has remained an... Read More
One of the most famous abbeys in the world, and probably the most famous of all abbeys in Britain, Westminster Abbey is an iconic medieval structure and site of many historic royal events.
Westminster Abbey is an iconic medieval structure and the site of many historic royal and national events, from coronations and weddings to burials and even deaths. Centrally located in London, Westminster Abbey was first constructed in the eleventh century by King Edward the Confessor, a Saxon king who dedicated this... Read More
Among several ruined abbeys in the UK, Whitby Abbey is a picturesque cliff-top ruin of a thirteenth century Benedictine abbey in Yorkshire.
Whitby Abbey is a picturesque cliff-top ruin of the 13th century church of a Benedictine abbey in Yorkshire. An Anglo-Saxon monastery was actually first founded here by Northumbria’s King Oswy in 657AD, but nothing remains of this now. Instead, the jagged walls and arches that stand here are what are... Read More