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The remains of St Mary’s Abbey in York lie in the gardens of the Yorkshire Museum. The abbey was once one of the wealthiest and most powerful Benedictine monasteries in England, its abbot as influential as the Archbishop of York, whose Minster Church is a neighbour. The abbey was built by William the Conqueror soon after the Conquest of 1066, to help reinforce his grasp on the rebellious north and it was dissolved on the orders of Henry VIII in 1540. The buildings were used by him during his visit to York in 1541.
All that is visibly left of this enormous complex are the remains of the abbey church, part of the cloisters, the abbey walls and the gateway, on Marygate, next to St Olave’s Church. This was the main entrance into the abbey and is now the headquarters of York Museums Trust. The walls were built in the 1260s and are the most complete set of abbey walls in the country. Further remains are under the main Yorkshire Museum building.
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