The origins of Muchelney Abbey are, as they say, lost in the mists of time.
The story goes that it was founded in 693 AD by King Ine of Wessex, but that that abbey did not survive, possibly due to Danish raiders.
It was then refounded by King Athelstan in 939 AD.
Or at least it may have been. The founding charters are all 13th century forgeries created by the monks to justify their legal status.
There are, however, genuine charters mentioning the abbey dated 762 AD and 995 AD, so it seems possible.
These days it is difficult to see why the monks chose this spot. It's only during sever floods
that the defensive possibilities of the site become clear. That is when Muchelney lives up to the meaning of its name, and becomes a Great Island.
Fragments of the 10th century Saxon church still survive forming a sunken area under the late medieval choir.
For opening times, admission prices, etc., please see English Heritage's official site detailed below.
Soon after the abbey was dissolved in 1538, the great medieval church and its associated monastic buildings,
built during the twelfth to fifteenth centuries, were almost all demolished. The little that was left became part of a modest tenanted farm.
All that has survived above ground is the Rere-dorter and the Abbott's Lodging. The latter incorporates the south walk of the cloisters, the monks' kitchens
and one wall of the refectory.
The foundations of the rest of the buildings were rediscovered in 1872, and were excavated soon after. The site came into state ownership in 1927.
External Links and References
English Heritage Handbook Entry https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/muchelney-abbey/
Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muchelney_Abbey
Muchelney Abbey by John Goodall and Francis Kelly
English Heritage's Guidebook
St Peter and St Paul's Church
As was usually the case, the great church in the abbey was only used by the monks; the villagers had their own church next door.
The current Church of St Peter and St Paul largely dates from the 15th century, and has two great glories:
First there is its magnificent three-stage Somerset church tower dating from around 1468.
Then there is the extraordinary Nave Ceiling covered with Jacobean paintings of bare-breasted angels, their nudity supposedly symbolizing innocent purity.
The Priest's House is a medieval hall-house that was built by the abbey in 1308 for the parish priest.
Despite being declared ruinous in 1608, it continued to be occupied by a vicar or curate until around 1840.
After that it deteriorated still further, becoming in turn a cellar and a school before being rented by a local farmer for storage.
By the end of the nineteen century it was recommended for demolition. At which point the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings organised a public appeal to raise money for its repair,
and in 1911 the building was acquired by the National Trust. They restored it to a design by Ernest Barnsley of the Barnsley Brothers,
the Arts and Crafts movement master builders.
It is currently tenanted, and opening hours are therefore restricted.
Check the National Trust's official site for details of opening times, admission prices, etc.