A place of worship on this site can be traced back to the first monastery built 655AD by King Paeda. After being destroyed in the Viking raids of 870, it was rebuilt as a Benedictine Abbey. It survived the attack in 1069 by Hereward the Wake, but was destroyed again, this time by an accidental fire, in 1116. Rebuilt between 1118 and 1238, it took on its present form. The building was saved from destruction by Henry VIII when he was pursuaded to retain the building and re-dedicate it as a Protestant Cathedral.
The picture shows the West Front, built in the early 13th century, which is the only part of the building in Gothic style.
Katharine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife was buried in the Abbey on her death at Kimbolton Castle in 1536. Henry did not attend the lavish funeral, but it has been suggested that his decision to turn the Abbey into a Cathedral may in part have been influenced by turning it into a memorial to Katharine.
After her execution at Fotheringhay in 1587, Mary, Queen of Scots, was initially buried here. Her body was later moved to Westminster Abbey by order of her son James (VI of Scotland, I of England).
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