The Augustine Monastery at Bristol

A Monastery at Bristol, dedicated also to St. Augustine, may be here fitly noticed. This was built by Robert Fitzharding, the founder of the present Berkeley family, and a prepositor, or chief magistrate, of the city during the stormy reign of Stephen. The establishment afterwards attained to such a pitch of wealth and splendour, that when Henry VIII., in placing his destructive hands upon the religious houses of England generally, was moved in some way to spare this, he was able to create a bishop’s see out of the abbey lands: the Abbey church was consequently elevated to the rank it now holds, of a cathedral. As an example of the summary way in which the king’s creatures were accustomed to deal with such beautiful and revered structures, it is not unworthy of notice that a part of the church was already demolished, before the arrangement we have mentioned was formally completed. The transept, the eastern part of the nave, and the choir of the original church, are the parts that were saved, and their stately character leaves us grateful for the possession of so much. There is also a tower at the western end of the building, of considerable size and height, and richly decorated. The beautifully arched roof is always looked upon with admiration. The painted windows are also ancient, and therefore interesting. Among the monuments are those to the Eliza of Sterne and to the wife of the poet Mason. But perhaps a still more valuable portion of the Abbey than any we have mentioned is to be found in the gateway (Fig. 573), which has been attributed to an earlier period—the arms of the Confessor are sculptured upon its front,—and which is universally esteemed one of the finest Norman gateways in England.

It is to be observed, in examining the engraving, that the rising of the ground in the course of so many centuries has materially injured the effect of the proportion of the arch to the rest of the edifice; and that the window seen there is not what we now see in the gateway itself, but what we ought to be able to see there; comparatively modern sashes having replaced the antique bay window.