An early history of Selby Abbey was written in 1174 by an anonymous monk. It includes the accounts of how Benedict of Auxerre was inspired by a vision of St Germain to travel to Selby with a holy relic of the saint’s finger to found the Abbey here in 1069, how Hugh came down from Durham in 1097 as the second Abbot and began to build the Abbey Church and the rest of the great monastery that once stood here, and of some major incidents during the office of subsequent Abbots over the next few generations. It mentions frequent healings and other miracles associated with those who came to pray at the shrine where St Germain’s relic was housed and Selby was evidently an important place of pilgrimage and hospitality in medieval times.

It is not known how or when the relic was lost and the shrine disappeared, but it may have been at some point before the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 when the Abbey itself ceased to be a monastic institution and pilgrimages, relics and other associated spiritual practices were discontinued.

However, we love to welcome modern day pilgrims to the Abbey for worship and prayer and to enjoy the history, architecture and atmosphere of this holy place.

Individuals and groups are welcome at any time during our normal opening hours, although we recommend that groups notify us in advance to ensure that there are no other services or activities that may restrict their visit.

We are also happy to arrange special services, prayer stations, guided tours, refreshments or anything else on request for visiting groups. Please contact the office for more information.

Icon of St Germain by Aidan Hart (2019)

Additional aids for Pilgrimage

A Pilgrim’s Guide is available in the Abbey or can be sent in advance. This leaflet follows a route through the Abbey stopping at twelve stations at each of which there is a suggested bible reading, a historical note and a prayer. (West Door, Font, Mason’s Marks, Abbot Hugh’s Pillar, South Transept Window, Hill Organ, Maclagan Chair, Statue of St Benedict, Washington Window, High Altar Screen, Resurrection Chapel, Jesse Window). We are happy to provide someone to lead groups on this ‘prayer walk’ if required.

We are currently working on some pilgrim routes from neighbouring locations to Selby Abbey (from Howden Minster, Snaith Priory, Monk Fryston and St Mary’s Abbey in York), each of which has a historical connection to Selby.