|Turner's The Chancel and Crossing of Tintern Abbey|
But the autumn can be the best time of year. On a bright, cold day with some early mist it's so much easier to imagine the medieval communities, busying themselves in these ancient buildings.
This type of reflection is nothing new. Long before the ruined abbeys were built, the Anglo-Saxons were thinking about the demise of much earlier civilisations. They even had a specific word for it: dūstsċēawung, meaning 'contemplation of the dust'. Like us, they realised that - in time - everything turns to dust.
Wondrous is this stone-wall; yet Fate has demolished
The fortress, so the giants' work crumbles.
Roofs are fallen off, towers have fallen down,
Rusty doors broken, frost fills the gap between stones,
The walls that fended off the stormy wind and snow
Are cracked, and crumble in the flow of time.
(The Ruin, Codex Exoniensis, 10th Century)
|St Mary's Abbey, York|
|Turner's Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire, on the Wharfe|