North York Moors CAM


Sunday 1st April 2001

Weather: Mainly sunny & warm, a lovely Spring day

Rievaulx Abbey


Rievaulx Abbey (Grid Ref: 578 851), founded in 1132, was the first Cistercian abbey in the north of England
- the abbey's most important period was during the rule of its third abbot, St Aelred (1147-1167),
from when many of the present surviving buildings were begun

During that period, Rievaulx Abbey ranked as the most important Cistercian abbey in Britain
and served as the centre for the monastic colonisation of the north of England and Scotland

The abbey is built on a series of terraces situated in a beautiful part of the Rye Valley



Tiny Rievaulx village , perched on a wooded hillside, consists of a few pretty sandstone cottages, some with thatched roofs
- it is situated about 2 miles north-west of Helmsley just left off the road to Stokesley


As you descend the steep hill and enter the village, look left and you'll get your first glimpses of the impressive ruins


Just past this point there's a large public car park next to the visitor's entrance which sells information books and gifts


Because of the current outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease in this country we had to walk across a disinfecting mat
before entering the visitor's centre and the grounds of the abbey ruins

There are several information plaques, some illustrated, conveniently situated in the grounds or on the walls of the ruins



Allow yourself at least a couple of hours to wander around the walls and through the arches of these magnificent ruins
which are now in the care of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, better known as English Heritage


You can easily imagine a roaring fire glowing in this wonderful fireplace


This building was the Monk's Refectory (dining-hall) built towards the end of the 12th century
- for much of the year, the monks ate only one meal a day here, around noon
- meat was excluded from their diet which consisted mainly of bread and vegetables, beans and leeks,
eggs, cheese and fish, all washed down with their own brewed beer !


The refectory floor was on the level where the dark stonework ends
it was supported on vaults down the centre which have fallen, the bases though can still be seen
The hall rose to a height of 50 feet with a series of richly carved blind arches and glazed lancet windows

The prior and senior monks sat at the far end, the rest of the community occupying benches
placed along the side walls facing wooden tables on stone supports


The ruins of some superb spiral stairways still remain


This is part of the arcaded gallery which surrounded the Cloister . . .


. . . across which can be seen the magnificent ruins of the church transepts

(The cloister was not originally grassed as it is now - flowers and fruit trees grew on the site)


The church was the most important building of the monastery and so it is fitting that
its ruins are the most spectacular of all

Although little remains of the nave from where the above photograph was taken, the transepts
survive on their north, west and south faces to almost full height . . .


You can wander about these ruins for ages and look up in utter amazement at the heavily moulded arches . . .



. . . and flying butresses which support the high vault . . .



. . . and wonder in awe at the amazing skills of the craftsmen who created them, the likes of which we may never see again



Here we look across the Chapter House towards the Dormitory and the Refectory

The chapter house was so named because a chapter of the rule of St Benedict was read here daily
- it was also the building where business was transacted and monastic discipline enforced

Here, too, the early abbots were buried - the eastern end (above) was rounded and in the west wall . . .


. . . lay the shrine of Rievaulx's founding abbot, St William (1132-45)
- his coffin would have been placed on the slab of stone half-way up the shrine beneath the arch


This is an artist's impression of how Rievaulx Abbey might have looked at the end of the 15th century


Finally, I'd like to thank our new friends, Myric and Lois, for their company today

Myric and Lois are over here on holiday from their home in Lebanon, New Hampshire, USA
- we had long planned to join them for a walk over the North York Moors somewhere but because of the
current Foot & Mouth crisis those walking plans had to be shelved

However, they are showing that it's still possible to come over to the UK and have a great holiday as we proved today
- the tourist industry over here needs more people like them, their vacation is turning out as enjoyable as ever !


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