Note: Do not rely on this information. It is very old.
Abbey, a term used both of an institution consisting of persons, and of the building in which the persons dwell. As an institution it signifies a society of monks or nuns, presided over by an abbot or abbess, who withdraw themselves from the world and bind themselves to live in seclusion. As a building, the term is used to designate not only such buildings as are actually occupied by such societies, but also cathedrals or churches, which were inhabited by monastic communities before the Reformation.