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Buckfast Abbey

Buckfast Abbey, south Devon, England
Buckfast Abbey, south Devon, England

Buckfast Abbey in Buckfastleigh, Devon is one of a small number of active monasteries in Britain today. It was founded in 1018, dedicated to Saint Mary, and run by the Cistercian order from 1147 until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Today it is a Benedictine foundation.

Between 1536, when it was dissolved, and 1882, the abbey lay in ruins. Then a group of Benedictine monks arrived, lived among the ruins, and gradually re-built the abbey much as it had been. The church itself was restored by the monks themselves, in 1907-1908, under Abbot Anscar Vonier. The abbey has close links with Germany, where many of the monks came from. Nowadays the abbey is more or less self-supporting, selling wine, honey and beeswax and making tourists welcome. Its most successful product is Buckfast Tonic Wine, a strong tonic wine which the monks began making (to a German recipe) in the 1890s. The strength of "Buckfast", and its misuse, have latterly proved to be a controvertial issue for the abbey.

Brother Adam, born Karl Kehrle in 1898 in Germany, was in charge of the Abbey's beekeeping, but the bees were being decimated by "Isle of Wight" disease, later called "acarine" disease, after the acarine parasitic mite that invaded the bees' tracheal tubes and shortened their lives, killing off whole colonies. Brother Adam began importing resistant stock from other nations, creating a vigorous, parasite resistant hybrid honeybee known as the Buckfast bee among beekeepers. Brother Adam died in 1996.

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Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45