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The Abbey of St Mary in York, England, is a ruined Benedictine abbey that lies in what are now the Yorkshire Museum Gardens, to the west of York Minster. The original abbey on the site was founded in 1055 and dedicated to Saint Olave. It was refounded by William II in 1088 who laid the foundation stone of the Norman church, although this church no longer remains. Following a dispute and riot in 1132, a party of reform-minded monks left to establish the Cistercian monastery of Fountains Abbey. The surviving ruins date back to the rebuilding programme begun in 1271 and finished by 1294.
The abbots of St Mary’s were said to be very worldly and the abbey featured heavily in the early medieval ballads of Robin Hood (with the abbot usually as Robin Hood’s nemesis).
St Mary’s was once the largest and richest Benedictine establishment in the north of England and the abbey was one of the largest landholders in Yorkshire. However, in 1539, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII, it was closed and subsequently substantially destroyed. All that remains today are the north and west walls, plus a few other remnants: the Pilgrims’ Hospitium, the West Gate and the 14th-century timber-framed Abbot’s House (now called the King’s Manor). The walls include interval towers along the north and west stretches, St Mary’s Tower at the northwest corner and a polygonal water tower by the river. Excavated finds and architectural features, particularly relating to the warming house and late twelfth century chapter house, are displayed in the nearby Yorkshire Museum.
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