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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 June, 2003, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Ancient abbey's virtual world
Virtual Tintern Abbey
A virtual reality world of Tintern Abbey can be toured
Tourists are becoming real-life "Tomb Raiders" after an ancient abbey was recreated in a virtual reality world.

Tintern Abbey, near Chepstow in Monmouthshire, has been brought back to its former glory through an interactive tour which was created using technology seen in computer games.

People can now search the ruins from their PC and see what the abbey would have looked like in 1320 compared to today.

The abbey has been recreated to specific detail from the type of tiles used on the floor to any cracks in the windows.

It is a unique experience and greatly helps the understanding of the abbey as it appears today
Mike Gogan, Virtual Experience Company

The tour, which will be placed on the Welsh historic monuments body Cadw's website, is already running on the design company's website.

Mike Gogan, who runs the Virtual Experience Company based in Leamington Spa, was behind the Tintern Abbey programme.

"One of my ancestors, Ralph Gogan, was a master mason who worked on Tintern Abbey," he said.

"He used the latest technology in the 13th century to create the abbey, and we've used the latest technology in the 21st century to rebuild it."

The company, which has already built a virtual world around Shakespeare's birthplace, came up with the idea and presented it to Cadw.

Tintern Abbey
Users can click between today's ruins and the 1320 abbey

During the development of the project, designers researched the history of Tintern Abbey, which was founded by Cistercian monks in 1131 and rebuilt in the late 13th century.

Archaeologists and historians were consulted to understand what it would have looked like in 1320.

Using 3D models, the company were able to build a virtual Tintern Abbey using computer game technology.

People entering the virtual world will have complete freedom within the domain and can even takes walks along the riverbank to look at the abbey.

Technology difficulties

But the company has said that some people will find it hard to access the tour if the computers they use do not have up-to-date technology.

"We are aware that there are difficulties for some visitors to download these types of files and we are working to develop more accessible technologies," said Mr Gogan.

"Nonetheless, for those people who can view the real-time model of Tintern online, it is a unique experience and greatly helps the understanding of the abbey as it appears today," he added.

Andrew Hood, the head of presentation at Cadw said: "This is an exciting and fascinating project which can only serve to widen the appreciation of this unique site, which is undoubtedly one of the wonders of Wales."

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