The abbey is located in the heart of Bury which is surrounded by Abbey Gardens. The Abbey was once one of the richest and most powerful Benedictine monasteries in England. Its remains include the complete 14th century Great Gate, Norman Tower, the ruins and altered west front of the church. The remains of St Edmund, the Saxon King of the East Angles were moved here in 903 and his shrine was a place for pilgrimage for peasants, kings and everyone in between. The Abbey was founded in 1020 and grew in power and fortune until it was destroyed in 1539.
The Normans replaced the Saxon church on a large scale using Barnack limestone. The west front was completed around the 13th century under Abbott Samson, he added the great central tower and lower octagonal towers to either side. He improved the accommodation by adding the new Black Hostry hall. The abbey suffered a lot of damage with part of the west tower collapsing and there was a serious fire. It was surrended to King Henry VIII in 1539.
You can still see the Great Gate which is the Abbey's best surviving feature, the precinct wall in some places which crosses the River Lark over the Abbott's Bridge, parts of the abbey church, the crypt: bases of its supporting piers and lower courses of its walls, piers of the crossing tower and the north wall, centre window of the north transept, the chapter house and the monks cemetery and infirmary.
St Mary's Church is one of the largest parish churches in England and was part of the abbey complex and originally was one of three churches in Bury. St James which is now St Edmundsbury Cathedral and St Margaret's which no longer exists.
In between the 14th and 16th centuries the nave, aisles and tower were built. During this time Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII, died and was buried in the church. Her tomb is in the sanctuary to the north of the Lord's table. The church is dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus.