I’ve lived in Farnborough for over 20 years and have never really been aware of the presence of St Michael’s Abbey , let alone visited it.
So yesterday I decided to set things right and paid them a visit. The Abbey does public visits every Saturday at 3pm so I availed myself of the tour to see the Abbey and the Crypt. You can read about the Abbey at their website or on Wikipaedia.
I was given a tour by one of the Benedictine brothers which included the church and also the crypt where the Empress Eugenie, her husband Napoleon III and their son the Prince Imperial are entombed.
The church is in a baroque style complete with amazing gargoyles. Inside it was very moving with the reverence that such an environment gives to worship. The marble flooring was fantastic, the windows are in a Belgian bottle style and some ‘English’ stained glass windows. My first ever visit to a Catholic church. The recently installed underfloor heating was most welcome according to the brother!
From the church we walked around the grounds, past the monastery graveyard to the crypt built by Eugenie. Through the door we go down steps to the centre of the crypt. Ahead is the altar and above and beyond that is the huge marble casket containing the remains of Eugenie. To the left and right are similar caskets of her husband Napoleon III and her son, the Prince Imperial who was killed during the Zulu Wars in KwaZulu -Natal whilst in the employ of the British Army.
Afterwards a trip was made to the monastery shop where you find for sale the produce of the monks and the volunteers, honey, beef, candles and cards together with the usual things you’d expect in a Christian shop.
The monks raise cattle, keep bees, excel in Gregorian chant and have an expertise in bookbinding. Perhaps apt that you’ll also find the National Catholic Library in the grounds.
A visit to the Abbey is a really good way to spend a few hours if you are in the neighbourhood. So give them a visit and help support the community there.