Hailes Abbey is a Cistercian abbey, two miles northeast of Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, England. It was founded in 1246 as a daughter establishment of Beaulieu Abbey. The abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539. Now, little remains of the abbey. The site is owned by the National Trust but financed and managed by English Heritage. The ruins are listed Grade I.
The abbey was founded in 1246 by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, the younger brother of King Henry III of England. Richard was elected by the German Princes as Holy Roman Emperor but the Pope refused him use of the title, henceforth he was styled “King of the Romans”. Richard founded the abbey to thank God after surviving a shipwreck. Richard had been granted the manor of Hailes by King Henry, and settled it with a group of twenty Cistercian monks and ten lay brothers, lead by Prior Jordan, from Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire. The great Cistercian abbey was entirely built in a single campaign in 1277, and was consecrated in a royal ceremony that included the King and Queen and 15 bishops. It was one of the last Cistercian houses to be founded in Englnd.
Hailes Abbey became a site of pilgrimage after Richard’s son Edmund donated to the Cistercian community a phial of the Holy Blood, purchased in Germany, in 1270. Such a relic of the Crucifixion was a considerable magnet for pilgrimage. From the proceeds, the monks of Hailes were able to rebuild the Abbey on a magnificent scale.One Abbot of Hailes was executed as a rebel after the Battle of Bramham Moor, in 1408.
Though King Henry VIII’s commissioners declared the famous relic to be nothing but the blood of a duck, regularly renewed, and though the Abbot Stephen Sagar admitted that the Holy Blood was a fake in hope of saving the Abbey, Hailes Abbey was one of the last religious institutions to acquiesce following the Dissolution Act of 1536. The Abbot and his monks finally surrendered their abbey to Henry’s commissioners on Christmas Eve 1539.