Tintern Abbey is said to be one of the most spectacular ruins in the country. It has inspired paintings and poems, notably some by Tennyson and Wordsworth. The Abbey stands on the bank of the River Wye in south Wales, about two driving hours from Oxford.
Tintern Abbey was built for Cistercian monks in 1131. Undoubtedly it was beautiful when it was new and the stones were smooth and the passageways dim with shadows. I prefer it now. Roofless, open to the heavens, groundless, with greenest grass flourishing inside and flowers sprouting in the niches high up on the chancel walls.
A wooden door stands open, and though it we gazed across the length of the Abbey and out the frame of the glorious east window to the hills beyond.
Norah wanted to run around and climb on stones and pick flowers. I wanted to be still and stare, dwarfed by stone columns and Welsh hillsides, the archways framing my upward gaze. I wanted to lie flat in the grass in the center of the monk’s choir and listen for the echoes of nearly a millenium past, when white-robed Cistercian monks gathered here for eight services a day.