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St Catherines Chapel - Abbotsbury

St Catherines Chapel St Catherines Chapel
St Catherines Chapel St Catherines Chapel

Small 15th century chapel set on the hill overlooking Abbotsbury and the coast beyond.

St Catherine's Chapel is a small chapel thought to have been built by monks in the fourteenth century for pilgrims to Abbotsbury Abbey. The chapel, made of local stone, is designed to withstand the elements. Four foot thick walls are supported by stout buttresses. Even the roof is made of stone.

Although Abbotsbury Abbey was destroyed during the Dissolution, St Catherine's Chapel survived, possibly because its location, on top of an 250 foot (80m) hill with excellent views over the Fleet lagoon and Chesil beach, made it an invaluable daymark for sailors crossing Lyme Bay.

St Catherine is the patron saint of spinsters. A traditional prayer is used at St Catherine's Chapel by women in search of a husband. 'A husband, St Catherine. A handsome one, St Catherine. A rich one, St Catherine, A nice one, St Catherine, And soon, St Catherine.' PJ Harvey (who lives and grew up near Abbotsbury) used this prayer as the inspiration for her song 'The Wind'. Another tradition associated with St Catherine's Chapel is 'wishing'. This involves posting prayers or 'wishes' through niches in the east jamb of the south doorway.

The interior of the chapel is completely bare, apart from a small oratory in the turret of a single tower in the north west corner.

The chapel can be accessed on foot from the village of Abbotsbury via a path called the Ropewalk, signposted from the western end of the high street. It can also be clearly seen from a viewpoint on the B3157 from Abbotsbury to Bridport, along with the medieval 'strip lynchets' (terraces cut into the side of the hillside for agricultural purposes), that are known locally as 'Chapel Rings'.

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