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Rievaulx Abbey

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HISTORY

It was a Cistercian abbey at Rievaulx, located near Helmsley in the North York Moors National Park, North Yorkshire, England. It was one of England's great abbeys until it was taken over under Henry VIII of England in 1538, during the dissolution of the monasteries. The impressive ruins of its main buildings are a tourist attraction, owned and maintained by English Heritage. Rievaulx Abbey was the first Cistercian monastery in northern England, founded in 1132 by twelve monks from Clairvaux Abbey.

WHY THIS PLACE

Its remote location was well suited to the order's ideal of a rigorous life of prayer and self-reliance, with little contact with the outside world. The abbey's patron, Walter Espec, also founded another Cistercian community, that of Wardon Abbey in Bedfordshire, on unproductive land on one of his inherited estates. The first abbot of Rievaulx, St William I, began construction in the 1130s. The second abbot, Saint Aelred of Rievaulx, elected in 1147, expanded the buildings and consolidated the existence of what in time became one of the great abbeys.

CURIOSITIES

Yorkshire Cistercians, second only to Fountains Abbey. Under Aelred, the abbey is said to have grown to around 140 monks and 500 lay brothers. By the end of his term, Rievaulx had five daughter houses in England and Scotland.

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