Illustrations of Tintern Abbey


Tintern Abbey was a major Cistercian abbey, founded in 1131 and dissolved in 1536. After its dissolution, the buildings began to decay. During the 18th century parts of the buildings were inhabited casually by local workers, and by the end of the century the ruins had become an established site for tourists. The site became associated with ‘the sublime’ due to the grandeur, awe and terror inspired by the setting.

How do the pictures differ?

The view from the south-east shows the abbey ruins as a tourist destination. In contrast, the other view foregrounds the working environment, the smoking furnaces, the ferry, the barges, the pack animals and the travellers.  

In Observations on the River Wye (1782) William Gilpin notes that,

Many of the furnaces on the banks of the river consume charcoal which is manufactured on the spot, and the smoke (which is frequently seen issuing from the sides of the hills, and spreading its thin veil over a part of them) beautifully breaks their lines, and unites them with the sky. 

Gilpin goes on to document the ‘poverty and wretchedness’ of the homeless taking shelter in the abbey ruins.

Full title:
Four Views of Tintern Abbey
Illustration / Image
Frederick Calbert
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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