religious site may have existed on the cliffs at Whitby as early as 655 when the Northumbrian king Oswy defeated Penda, the king of Mercia and undertook the founding of several monasteries. The monastery was sited high on the exposed cliffs over the town of Whitby and may have been the site of Roman occupation several hundred years before. In 664, the Synod of Whitby took place where the differences between the Roman and Celtic calendars were discussed. It was decided to adopt the Roman calendar. Little is known of the abbey until 867 when the area was invaded by the Danes. The monastery, like many other in the region were destroyed. The twelfth century historian, William of Malmsbury reports that in 944 King Edmund I took control of York and the surrounding area and moved sacred relics from the ruins of Whitby monastery to Glastonbury Abbey. The monastery laid in ruins until the end of the eleventh century when monks from Winchcombe and Evesham travelled to the north and settled there. An abbey was refounded with help from the Percy family and a new Saxon monastery was built on the site. Under Serlo de Percy and William de Percy a typical Benedictine church was constructed consisting of a nave, transepts and apsidal chapels at the eastern end. Whitby had three apses, one main one and two smaller coming from the two transepts. The eastern end of the church was rebuilt starting in around 1220. The strange thing is that the new section of the church was built out of line with the existing nave. The end of the Abbey came in 1540 like so many others and was granted to the Cholmley family. Since then it fell into disrepair and was robbed for its building materials. The central tower fell in 1830 leaving a remaining ghostly shell.
The Danes led by the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok, Ivar the boneless and Halfdan, attacked Northumbria and York. They wanted revenge for the death of their father who had been killed by Aella, the King of Northumbria. (Aella could have been an Irish Prince.) The Danes destroyed many churches and monasteries including Whitby Abbey. The monasteries remained ruined for two hundred years. (This may be a legend as Aella was supposedly killed at York)
Edmund I took control of York and the surrounding area. He removed sacred relics from the remains of Whitby Abbey and moved them to Glastonbury Abbey.
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