DISSOLUTION OF THE MONASTERIESFour hundred seventy years ago, there existed across England scores of monasteries and nunneries, home to thousands of devout monks, nuns and friars. In four years, all of that vanished.

Today, the ruins of these buildings dot the English countryside and are some of the most popular tourist destinations. Some are included on the National Trust’s list of historically and architecturally significant buildings.

The example closest to the U.S. Air Force community in the United Kingdom is the 12th-century ruins of a monastery in the Abbey Gardens of Bury St. Edmunds.

The story of the dissolution of the monasteries is one shrouded in the upheaval of the time.

In 1536, there were 800 monasteries scattered across England and Wales, according to the Pitkin Guide Book “Dissolution of the Monasteries.” It was a different time, when women wore chastity belts, monks led lives of quiet introspection and selfless toil, and the Crown could arbitrarily seize property and wealth for itself.

Over the next four years, King Henry VIII stirred religious and social chaos that forever altered the face of English religion and power.

By 1540, the buildings that housed the monasteries lay vacant and all that was valuable belonged to the royal family, according to the book.

Today, tourists from around the globe descend on the abbeys spread across the country to marvel at what’s left of some of the medieval period’s grandest buildings.

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