What is an Abbey?

Many people don’t know this or at least don’t think about it when watching the hit television series Downton Abbey. An abbey actually refers to a Catholic Monastery that is headed by an abbot. One Abbey, the Westminster Abbey, is an abbey that doesn’t function like it was intended anymore. In this case, Downton Abbey originally was a Catholic Monastery that transformed into a house.

What is the importance of having a show called Downton Abbey? The writers of the show specifically named it Downton Abbey for a reason. And although Abbeys go back centuries, that is not what is happening here.

Downton refers to an actual place in England. It was a large village in Wiltshire. Only prominent families live in Abbey’s and thus why we follow an important family, Crawley’s, through their lives in a Catholic Monastery. The symbolism behind the entire story is that the Abbot is run by the Earl and oversees all that is going on. If someone gets out of line, he is the judge and jury. So the monastic life kind of lives on in this Abbey, but not what we would consider a traditional Abbey.

Although Highclere Castle was used as the outside shots for the Abbey, the fictional show is based on a close resemblance to a real monastic life in which things are done in a certain way and reprimands are given by one individual.

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