But now children and teenagers in Selby, North Yorkshire, are being given the chance to rebuild it themselves - on video game Minecraft.
The game, which can played on computers and consoles, allows players to construct buildings, streets and towns to high levels of accuracy and detail.
Two workshops are being run by professional Minecrafters, with a goal of sparking a passion for the town’s heritage in young people.
Over the next few years much of the town centre will be created in Minecraft, but to begin with two important buildings, Selby Abbey and Abbot’s Staith, have been built by Scarborough based Minecrafters at Krash Labs, ready for children to add their own creations.
Krash Labs have worked from maps, plans and photographs, as well as drawing on the expertise from the heritage volunteers who help to care for them, to build the Grade I Listed Selby Abbey and Grade II* Listed and Scheduled Ancient Monument Abbot’s Staith.
Selby Abbey has seen worshippers since 1069. Legend has it that it was founded by Benedict, a monk from Auxerre in France, was compelled to build a monastery at "Selebiae" in a vision from God. He was told by God to build the Abbey where he saw three swans - which he did on the curve of the River Ouse, near where the Abbey still sits today.
As well as the Minecraft buildings the project will also 3D scan and embed a series of objects which tell the stories of Selby town. This includes a finial which was found during an archaeological dig at the Abbot’s Staith.
The workshops, run today and tomorrow, are part of the town’s High Street Heritage Action Zone, funded by Historic England and Selby District Council.
Councillor Chris Pearson said, “This is a great way to get young people to explore the history and heritage of Selby, especially while we’re all staying home because of Covid-19.
“This pilot will allow these buildings to be seen and explored as never before: they can exist over different time periods, their nooks and crannies can be discovered. Children will have a lot of fun exploring buildings they may never have been in and adding to the town centre – I hope we see everything from a Star Wars museum to a medieval banqueting hall.”