St Catherine's Chapel, Abbotsbury
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
The medieval chapel of St Catherine dominates the picturesque village of Abbotsbury from its perch on a hill high above the village. A climb to the chapel gives superb views out over The Fleet and Chesil Bank to Lyme Bay.
St Catherines dates from the 14th century. It was built by the monks of Abbotsbury, possibly as a beacon for pilgrims coming to worship at the abbey in the village below. The chapel survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries that destroyed the abbey because it was so valued as a navigational beacon to sailors making the crossing of Lyme Bay.
Because it was dedicated to St Catherine, the patron saint of spinsters, the chapel became popular as a place for women to pray for a husband. In the words of an old prayer:
A Husband, St Catherine,
A handsome one, St Catherine,
A rich one, St Catherine,
A nice one, St Catherine,
And soon, St Catherine.
The chapel is built entirely of local stone, hauled up the hill to the building site. There is a small oratory in the turret. The interior is bare, though regular musical events are held in the chapel, featuring local musicians. On my last visit I heard beautiful music floating out across the valley as I made my way up the hill.
I thought perhaps someone had carried a portable stereo up to the chapel, but the reality was much more special; a string quartet was playing inside the chapel as they rehearsed for a musical event. The incredible acoustics made the beautiful music reverberate inside the chapel and spill out over the surrounding countryside. It was surreally beautiful.
Surrounding the chapel are a series of medieval strip lynchets; terraces cut into the hillside for agricultural purposes. The lynchets are known locally as Chapel Rings and are quite striking when seen from the village below.
The climb from the village takes 10 minutes or so (depending on how many stops you take to enjoy the view!). The slope is not terribly steep, and once you've reached the top, a very short level walk to the seaward side of the hill gives stunning views out over Lyme Bay, with Abbotsbury Swannery, The Fleet, and Chesil Bank in the foreground.
Abbotsbury is 9 miles west of Weymouth on the B3157. The chapel can be reached from the western end of the High Street via Rope Walk (signposted).
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Address: Chapel Hill, Abbotsbury, Weymouth, Dorset, England, DT3 4JH
Attraction Type: Historic Building
Location: half mile south of Abbotsbury
English Heritage - see also: English Heritage memberships (official website)
OS: SY572 848
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Opening Details: Open access site, usually accessible at any reasonable time
We've 'tagged' this attraction information to help you find related historic attractions and learn more about major time periods mentioned.
Find other attractions tagged with:
14th century (Time Period) -
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Abbotsbury, St Nicholas Church - 0.4 miles (Historic Church)
Abbotsbury Abbey - 0.5 miles (Abbey)
Abbotsbury Gardens - 1 miles (Garden)
Abbotsbury Castle - 1.5 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Abbotsbury Swannery - 1.8 miles (Family Attraction)
Kingston Russell Stone Circle - 1.9 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Hardy Monument - 3.1 miles (Historic Building)
Winterbourne Poor Lot Barrows - 3.8 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Nearest Accommodation to Chapel: