The ancient, now-ruined Cistercian Abbey of St. Mary’s at Quarr was founded by Baldwin de Redvers in 1132 A.D. on the windswept cliffs and ancient woodland of the Isle of Wight. The monastery survived as both a religious institution and defensive structure, until its destruction in the sixteenth century during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The modern Quarr Abbey was constructed in the early twentieth century by architect Dom Paul Bellot after the arrival of an order of French Benedictine monks. The monastic buildings, considered some of the most important twentieth-century religious structures in the United Kingdom, were constructed from Belgian brick in a medieval style combining French and Moorish architectural elements. The complex is surrounded by a beautiful landscape of gardens, fields, farm buildings, medieval ruins, and the ocean.
The medieval ruins are in need of repair, as are the monastic buildings and surrounding infrastructure. Monastic life is fundamental to the living tradition of the complex, but the shrinking community of monks has been challenged by the maintenance of the abbey and its cultural resources. Increased awareness about the significance of the monastic complex and the surviving spiritual life within its walls will hopefully help to garner support for the repair, maintenance, and management of the structures, as well as improve visitor facilities and public engagement. It may also shed new light on a problem faced by many historic religious institutions the world over, where thinning congregations and dwindling communities impact ways of life as well as the structures so integral to their practice.
Since the Watch
In July 2012 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £2 million to Quarr Abbey. The funds will be used for conservation of the medieval ruins and the abbey church, and for the creation of a visitor center that will interpret the history of the site and enhance visitors’ understanding of the monastic way of life. July 2012