Historically, an abbey could function as an independent fiefdom, with workers tending fields and flocks to support the monastery. Some were lucky enough to quarry stone to improve their buildings and able to mine precious metals to trade.
The Abbey is an area majority game with cards that trigger special effects. Players place workers out into areas on the board and manipulate monks to make some resources worth more than others or to lock down certain areas of the board. No-one quite knows how many turns they’ll get each round and players get a little less to work with every round, so it gets harder to do what you want to do as the scoring opportunities go up.
For more information, read up on the development of the game.