(active 1090s in Sussex)

General view

consecrated 1094
Battle Abbey, Sussex

The Battle of Hastings, fought on 14 October 1066, is one of the best-known events in England's history, when William of Normandy defeated the army of King Harold (1020-1066) of England. The battlefield owes its survival to the founding by William the Conqueror of Battle Abbey on the site as penance for the bloodshed. Much of the battlefield became part of the abbey's great park, which formed the core of a country estate after the abbey's suppression in 1538.

The Benedictine abbey of Battle was founded and largely endowed by King William in about 1071. Dedicated to the Trinity, the Virgin and St Martin of Tours, it was established as a memorial to the dead of the battle and as atonement for the bloodshed of the Conquest. It was also a highly visible symbol of the piety, power and authority of the Norman rulers.

The principal sources for the Battle of Hastings are the Bayeux Tapestry and the chronicler William of Poitiers. Between them they provide more information than for any other medieval battle, although many details remain unclear.

Despite the unsuitable location on top of a narrow, waterless ridge and objections from the first monks, William insisted that the high altar of the abbey church be placed to mark where Harold had been killed. When the new church was consecrated in 1094 in the presence of William II (reigned 1087–1100) and the Archbishop of Canterbury, it was one of the richest religious houses in England.

View the ground plan of the Battle Abbey.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.