If you approach Wimborne from almost any direction, one of the first things you see is this great Minster church, which by its very size dominates, but certainly does not intimidate, the centre of the town.
A Minster church was a teaching church, in addition to being to being a monastic order. Before there were theological colleges, those who wanted to train for the priesthood or to learn more about Christianity, went to a Minster church. Hence York Minster, Beverley Minster, etc.
WIMBORNE MINSTER was founded as a nunnery in 705 by Cuthberga, (sister of a Saxon king – King Ina) and so it remained, although an effective missionary centre, until it was dissolved in the early 11th Century, when the enclosed order was replaced by a college of canons which survived until the Dissolution of colleges and chantries in the 16th Century. As a minster it served as a base for the evangelization of the surrounding area. A little of a second Saxon church survives in the North transept but the church was thoroughly rebuilt on the present large scale towards the end of the 12th Century, from which the nave, crossing and first bay of the chancel survive. The crossing is very fine, with its lantern tower, though the battlements are a clumsy 16th Century addition. Then follows the Eastern part of the chancel, 13th Century Early English work, including the very elegant East window of three lancets. The 14th Century contributed the transepts and finally the 15th Century accounts for the raising of the nave clerestory and high timbered roof and the well-proportioned West tower.
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