The 11th-century Church
When William the Conqueror founded Battle Abbey he ordered that the church's high altar should be placed on the spot where Harold had fallen.
The stone slab marks the site of the death of King Harold towards the evening of 14 October 1066. The church was one of the earliest Norman churches built in England, and was completed in 1094. It was an aisled building some 69m long. Here at the east end the aisles continued round the apse, forming a processional way or ambulatory from which three chapels radiated. The east end is marked on the ground. Battle was probably the first church in England with this plan, which was then common in the Loire valley in France, from where the founding Benedictine monks came.
In the late 13th century the east end was replaced by a new choir and five radiating chapels with a vaulted crypt beneath. The church was demolished shortly after the Dissolution in 1538.
The church was the most important building in a monastery and was the focus of the monks' spiritual life. The first of the daily services, at about 2am, was Nocturns and the last, about 7pm, was Compline.
( photo captions )
- The lost east end of the 11th-century church. The high altar supposedly stood on the spot where Harold fell.
- The death of
Harold. The scene appears to show Harold (centre) being wounded by an arrow and the being cut down.
Detail from the Bayeux Tapestry - 11th century. By special permission of the City of Bayeux.