The Rich and Colourful History of Selby Abbey

Selby Abbey has stood for almost 1,000 years as a testament to endurance during some of England’s most destructive periods in history. As a building it is magnificent; as history it is much of England; as an institution it is both tainted with wickedness and also touched by God. This Abbey Church, dedicated to Our Lord, Our Lady and St Germain, has been both the home to a community of monks, destroyed by fire and rebuilt by human hand and now resides at the heart of community life in this small Yorkshire town.

For the casual visitor, there is much to learn by skimming through the pages linked below. For those of you who wish to explore our heritage in more detail, this website is filled with fascinating facts that will entertain and inform. Above all, we hope this website will bring you to us and let you feel the whispers of the past as you soak up the atmosphere of this most ancient of England’s churches.

Three Swans: The Vision of St Germain

Benedict, a monk from Auxerre in France, experienced a vision by God where he was called by St Germain to start a new monastery at “Selebiae”. In his vision he was told the site would be marked by the presence of three swans. Benedict undertook a great journey from France to England but first took a wrong turn, confusing Salisbury with Selebiae. He then ventured through King’s Lynn until finally resting…” at the bend of the river Ouse at Selby. Three swans alighted the river at this point and three swans have been the Abby Arms ever since.

Selby’s American Connection

Selby Abbey contains a rare and famous feature: a 14th century Washington Window. The window shows three red stars above two red bands on a white shield which are the charges on the Washington family Arms and the model for the American flag: the Stars and Stripes. It was General George Washington, later President George Washington, 1st President of the United States of America, who held this coat of arms which became the footprint for the creation of a new flag for the newly formed country.

Click the link below to view an image of the window and learn more information about this famous feature of Selby Abbey.

The Washington Window