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The Minster Church of St Mary the Virgin, Reading, stands in st Mary's Butts in the Town Centre - the road is so named because this is where archery was practised in the Middle Ages.
It is thought that a small chapel may have been established here in the 7th Century; a church had certainly been established during the 9th Century, by which time the old Roman roads centred on Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester) were being replaced by roads which met in Reading at a point where it was easiest to ford across the River Kennet. In 979 Queen Elfrida established a nunnery here, in repentance for murdering her stepson Edward, King and Martyr, after her husband King Edgar died; she favoured her own son, Ethelred. A round Saxon doorway at the entrance to St Edward's Chapel survives to this day. The nuns were expelled and the nunnery destroyed when the Danes sacked Reading in the 11th Century.
The church was overshadowd by the mighty Reading Abbey, which was founded in 1121 by Henry Beauclerc (King Henry 1) and led to Reading becoming one of the foremost religios and political centres in England. The Abbey was dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1539m, during the Reformation; this led to St Mary's regaining its importance, this time as an Anglican Minster church. It was rebuilt between 1550-1555 using materials from the Abeey, and largely took on its present appearance.
Today the church hosts regular services, and has a programme of concerts and recitals, the music being enhanced by the historic setting. It is defintely worth a look round if the church doors are open.
The church's website
The Minster Church of St Mary the Virgin, Reading.