William the Conqueror did not oust the prudent Abbot whom he found in office at Evesham. A favourite at the court of Edward the Confessor, Abbot Agelwy stood high also in Harold’s regard, and was not only unmolested when William took up the reins of power, but was appointed to other offices of great trust and political importance. On his death the abbacy was given to a Norman monk, Walter of Cerasia, and in his time the great church of which some foundations still remain was begun. The “wily Agelwy” had left “four chests of silver” towards this reconstruction, but this was not enough to build even the crypt and chancel, and we find Abbot Walter sending the chief treasures of the monastery, namely, the shrines containing the relics of Saint Odulf and Saint Egwin, round the country in charge of certain monks for the collection of more funds.
According to the monkish historian Saint Odulf refused to allow himself to be used for this purpose, and after one experiment the attempt was given up. The story goes that the shrine was carried to Winchcomb and laid in the church there, with the intention of being brought out next day into the market-place for exhibition, and probably with the hope of some cures being effected. But when the bearers tried to remove it from the church they could not with all their strength raise it from the floor; so the sermon was preached outside, a collection made, and the shrine (which now could be lifted with perfect ease) brought home. The expedition with Saint Egwin was quite successful, and a considerable sum of money collected towards the building.
As time went on the Monastery waxed in wealth and importance, and succeeding abbots completed, furnished, and decorated the new church planned by Abbot Walter. It had the usual choir, nave, central tower, and transepts; and cloisters surrounded by monastic buildings. Those who know the larger Norman churches of England will be able to form a fairly correct impression of the church at this time; but it is impossible to imagine truly the effect of the painted walls, arches and columns, the rich monuments, shrines, and altars decorated with fine embroideries, goldsmith’s work, and jewellery; all illuminated by windows of richly coloured glass.
From time to time Abbots with a taste or genius for building added to the structure. In the thirteenth century the central tower fell, and this was in part rebuilt and the choir repaired by Marleberge, an Abbot conspicuous by his ability, of whom we shall hear later. It was Marleberge who helped to complete a bell tower, which also fell to the ground not many years after, to be replaced by the beautiful campanile which still remains. Although the great church of the Monastery was the principal part of that institution, and on it was lavished all the wealth and skill available, yet it was but a small part of the whole group of