Whitby Abbey Art - The Ruins by Moonlight - Artist Mark Tisdale
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Whitby Abbey Art – The Ruins by Moonlight


The idea for this Whitby Abbey art crept around in the dark corners of my brain for quite some time before seeing the light of day. I’m not sure why these particular Gothic ruins because I don’t believe I’ve seen them in person. But there’s just something powerful and magnificent about those old stones reaching into the skies. I think in part it’s the same draw that inspired the Picturesque Movement. There’s just something intriguing about old ruins. Our minds fill in the gaps in the stones with stories and with people, whether inspired by research or imagination. Perhaps it’s the same muse that inspired Bram Stoker to set part of his Dracula book here. Ironically I wasn’t aware of that literary connection until after I had finished my artwork and was reading about the history of Whitby Abbey.

Whitby Abbey Art - The Ruins by Moonlight - Artist Mark Tisdale
Whitby Abbey Art – Moonlit Ruins

I suspect the fact I didn’t know the Whitby area fit into the Dracula mythos confirms I have not seen the medieval abbey in person, don’t you think?

In my mind’s eye, this view of the ruins always included a full moon bathing the picturesque ruins in light. It includes my love of combining the rich blue of a night sky with a contrasting gold or yellow. I hope when you look at this Whitby Abbey art you also feel as if you are standing there in the cool night air. That’s the feeling I was going for and personally that’s how I feel when I view this.

But on to the history of this beautiful place. Whitby Abbey started as a Benedictine Monastery in the 7th century. It was actually then a double monastery housing both a contingent of monks and one of nuns. If you have mental images of monasteries of this era being sacked by the Danes, then Streoneshalh as it was known then fits the bill. The original monastery was plundered and left in ruins in the 9th century. It wasn’t until the age of the Normans that the roots of the current Abbey were planted on the same site. The ruins we see today, however, date from a 13th century rebuilding. If you wonder how the Medieval Abbey met its end, it’s a familiar story to many a student of English history. The Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540 following his break with the Catholic church.

I hope these details added to your enjoyment of this Whitby Abbey art? I also hope you’ll share your thoughts about this artwork either in the comments below or if you’d rather you can send a message – I’d love to hear from you.

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