Monday, 7 May 2012

Things that Inspire me: Whitby Abbey

I first went to Whitby Abbey when I was fifteen, it was a haunting and beautiful place. Built right on the edge of the cliff as if challenging the sea to smash down the rocks and bury it in a watery grave.

The place served as an inspiration to Bram Stoker when he wrote his famous (or should I say infamous) novel ‘Dracula’ and it’s hardly surprising. The gothic architecture and lonely position meant it was the perfect setting for his title character to first step onto English soil.

I, however, was inspired rather differently by the abandoned ruin.

I am fascinated by the history of places, not just the way they are now, but how they came to be. Whitby Abbey was no exception and, after visiting this captivating place, I looked into what it meant to the people that built it and indeed what promoted them to create such a place on such a weather beaten outcrop of land.

I wasn’t disappointed by the story and discovered that the abbey was founded by an intelligent, headstrong and highly educated Saxon Princes called Hilda.

In a world without universities or even schools, the abbey was the only place to receive an education, and Hilda, as the Abbess, was the equivalent of being one of the first headmistresses and amongst the Alumni of her Abbey is the Venerable Bede, said to be the founding father of English history and this stands as a testament to her ability to educate others.

It was this story, and the idea of an Abbey being the home of education, that led me to construct the starting point of my title character in Serafin. She studied, not at a university, not at a school, not even at a hospital, but at the Abbey of Talabrigga and it seemed to fit with her strange world which is so like our own and yet so different.

In the world of Serafin the magic that she, and others, posses, takes on not just a practical application but also a religious element. It seemed only right that something as powerful as magic would be seen and studied in a religious place, and that the learning and perfection of the specific magic’s would require a monk-like dedication.  

So I decided that it would be within the walls of a place much like Whitby Abbey that Serafin would have taken her vows to study medicine and it is within those walls that her story begins.

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