On the same day we went to Helmsley Castle, we also visited Rievaulx Abbey, a Cistercian abbey in north Yorkshire. A few years ago I went to Fountains Abbey, see my post, and I learned about the Cisterians in a guided tour. Beside the ruins, at Rievaulx Abbey there is also a museum, a gift shop and a cafe. My husband and I had a lovely time and the museum is very interesting, we saw things we didn’t see before.
Rievaulx Abbey was founded in March 1132 and it was the first Cistercian abbey established in the north of England. In 1160s, at its peak, there were 650 people living at the abbey. As with most monasteries, it was suppressed in 1538.
The Cistercians were an order that descended from the Benedicts in late 1000s, they put emphasis on an austere life and followed the rules set out for monastic life by St Benedict in the 6th century. The Benedicts at that time made the rules less austere, as it happened with the Cistericians in the end too.
The most famous abbot was Abbot Aelred, in 1150-1160s. During his time as abbot, the abbey had 140 monks and 500 lay brothers. A Church was built in the 13th century. In the 14th century the lay brothers almost entirely disappeared from the community, and labour had to be hired. Rievaulx Abbey was shut down on 3 December 1538, when only 23 monks were living at the abbey. The abbey was sold and the roof was stripped of lead. The new owner develops a substantial ironworks that continues for about a century. 50 years later the abbey was sold to a lawyer from London, Sir Charles Duncombe. Duncombe built a new home nearby and his nephew created a terrace above the abbey, they can be visited too. That brought a lot of visitors on the area in the 18th century, including artists.
After this romantic period, when the abbey was a centre for artists inspired by the ruins, in the 19th century preservation was more important. In 1917 The Office of Works take the ruins into guardianship. Some renovations were made to the abbey with veterans from WWI.
The museum has a lot of interesting artifacts on display, like pieces from columns from the Church and the Abbey. All show the skills of the craftsmen at that time.
I like how many details this peacock has.
This is an wire scourge, used for self-penance, a rare survival. It’s the first time I see something like this.
These are some of the remains from the 13th-century Church.
So many people passed through those doors that the stone has worn out. I always notice these things when we visit an old place like this.
Rievaulx Abbey is in Rievaulx, Nr Helmsley, North Yorkshire, YO62 5LB. The entry fee is £8.50 (adult), free for EH members. There is a paid car park, but the fee is refunded when purchasing the ticket for the abbey.