‘14th Century Monk’s Spectacles’ Amongst Artefacts Displayed at Hailes Abbey’s New Museum

  • Hailes Abbey

For 300 years, pilgrims journeyed to Hailes Abbey. These travellers braved many miles in order to glimpse a sacred relic: the Holy Blood of Christ.

The ‘Blood of Hailes’ was, naturally, a tremendous draw for the faithful. (It was even mentioned in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales). But when Henry VIII’s men set to work dismantling the monasteries, the holy relic was denounced as the ‘blood of a duck,’ and the monastery was given over on Christmas Eve in 1539.

And so one of the most important places of pilgrimage in England was destroyed - just one of the local casualties of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. (The grand Evesham Abbey being another notable loss).

Today, Hailes Abbey is a picturesque ruin. Little more than walls and arches remain of the original structure, but the site is now managed by English Heritage, who evoke Hailes’ past glories with an audio tour - and, as of 2017, a re-designed musuem.

There may no longer be any Blood of Hailes - duck or otherwise - but English Heritage have managed to gather some very rare finds - including a fragment of a pair of spectacles that once belonged to a 14th century monk.

The metal seal of the abbey's Confraternity (or brotherhood) is also on display (on which you can see a rendition of a monk holding the Holy Blood).

Dr Michael Carter, Senior Properties Historian for English Heritage, said:

‘Hailes Abbey was one of the last and greatest Cistercian abbeys to be founded in England.

‘Thanks to the relic of the Holy Blood, the name of Hailes was familiar to popes and kings. Modern day visitors are following in the footsteps of the pilgrims who made long and arduous journeys to Hailes.

‘Just like their medieval predecessors, they will be struck by the beauty of the abbey's settings in the foothills of the Cotswolds.

‘The new museum contains artefacts of international significance and provides fascinating new insights into the abbey's royal founder, medieval belief and piety and the daily routine of the generations of Cistercian monks who lived here, their way of life brought to a sudden end by Henry VIII in 1539.’

And now visitors can arrive at Hailes by steam train. The heritage steam railway station Hayles Abbey Halt was re-opened by Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway and Lord Wemyss, a Patron of the railway, on the 5th of June 2017.

The station was first opened in 1928 to co-incide with the original museum opening at Hailes Abbey, but was closed by British Railways in 1960.

Find out more about Hailes Abbey’s re-designed museum here.