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26 Feb 2017 21 views
 
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photoblog image Another Sunday, another church

Another Sunday, another church

Rievaulx Abbey, founded in 1132, was the first Cistercian abbey to be established in the north of England. It quickly became one of the most powerful and spiritually renowned centres of monasticism in Britain, housing a 650-strong community at its peak in the 1160s under its most famous abbot, Aelred. The monastery was suppressed in 1538, but the spectacular abbey ruins became a popular subject for Romantic artists in the 18th and 19th centuries.

 

Rievaulx was an abbey of the Cistercian order, which was founded by St Bernard of Clairvaux at Cîteaux, near Dijon, France, in 1098. It was to become one of the most remarkable European monastic reform movements of the 12th century, placing an emphasis on a return to an austere life and literal observance of the rules set out for monastic life by St Benedict in the 6th century. 

 

The Cistercians first appeared in England at Waverley, Surrey, in 1128. Rievaulx was established in March 1132 on land given by Walter Espec (d. 1154), lord of nearby Helmsley and a royal justiciar. He was an active supporter of ecclesiastical reform and had founded Kirkham Priory for the reformist Augustinian canons in about 1121. 

 

The arrival of the reform-minded Rievaulx community sent shockwaves through the older Benedictine houses of the north. The foundation at Rievaulx was carefully planned by Bernard of Clairvaux to spearhead the monastic colonisation of northern Britain. Rievaulx’s first abbot, William, dispatched colonies to establish daughter houses at Warden and Melrose in 1136, Dundrennan in 1142 and Revesby in 1143. 

 

The first buildings at Rievaulx were temporary wooden structures. In the late 1130s Abbot William began the construction of stone buildings around the present cloister. The northern part of his west range, which housed the abbey’s lay brothers, still survives, as does a fragment of the south range.

 

Rievaulx Abbey was shut down on 3 December 1538, as part of the Suppression of the Monasteries that took place under Henry VIII in 1536–40. By this time Rievaulx’s community had shrunk to just 23 monks. It was sold to Thomas Manners (d.1543), 1st Earl of Rutland, who was closely associated with the royal court. 

Rutland dismantled the buildings, reserving the roof leads and the bells for the king. His steward at nearby Helmsley, Ralf Bawde, recorded the process of dismantling, leaving remarkably detailed accounts of the process and the form and contents of individual buildings.

 

By the beginning of the 20th century, the abbey ruins were in a state of imminent collapse. Minor repairs were carried out in 1907, but the scale of the repairs needed was such that only state intervention could save the site. The Office of Works took the ruins at Rievaulx into guardianship in July 1917. 

 

Immediate repairs were begun, in spite of the shortage of labour and materials brought about by the First World War. After 1918 Sir Frank Baines, Principal Architect at the Office of Works, devised pioneering engineering techniques at Rievaulx such as reinforced concrete beams hidden in the upper walls to stabilise the buildings. 

In the 1920s Sir Charles Peers, Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments, ordered the removal of much fallen debris to expose buried elements of the building. The work was carried out by war veterans. This policy of preservation and display set the style for the presentation of ancient monuments in Britain for the next two generations.

 

 

 

Another Sunday, another church

Rievaulx Abbey, founded in 1132, was the first Cistercian abbey to be established in the north of England. It quickly became one of the most powerful and spiritually renowned centres of monasticism in Britain, housing a 650-strong community at its peak in the 1160s under its most famous abbot, Aelred. The monastery was suppressed in 1538, but the spectacular abbey ruins became a popular subject for Romantic artists in the 18th and 19th centuries.

 

Rievaulx was an abbey of the Cistercian order, which was founded by St Bernard of Clairvaux at Cîteaux, near Dijon, France, in 1098. It was to become one of the most remarkable European monastic reform movements of the 12th century, placing an emphasis on a return to an austere life and literal observance of the rules set out for monastic life by St Benedict in the 6th century. 

 

The Cistercians first appeared in England at Waverley, Surrey, in 1128. Rievaulx was established in March 1132 on land given by Walter Espec (d. 1154), lord of nearby Helmsley and a royal justiciar. He was an active supporter of ecclesiastical reform and had founded Kirkham Priory for the reformist Augustinian canons in about 1121. 

 

The arrival of the reform-minded Rievaulx community sent shockwaves through the older Benedictine houses of the north. The foundation at Rievaulx was carefully planned by Bernard of Clairvaux to spearhead the monastic colonisation of northern Britain. Rievaulx’s first abbot, William, dispatched colonies to establish daughter houses at Warden and Melrose in 1136, Dundrennan in 1142 and Revesby in 1143. 

 

The first buildings at Rievaulx were temporary wooden structures. In the late 1130s Abbot William began the construction of stone buildings around the present cloister. The northern part of his west range, which housed the abbey’s lay brothers, still survives, as does a fragment of the south range.

 

Rievaulx Abbey was shut down on 3 December 1538, as part of the Suppression of the Monasteries that took place under Henry VIII in 1536–40. By this time Rievaulx’s community had shrunk to just 23 monks. It was sold to Thomas Manners (d.1543), 1st Earl of Rutland, who was closely associated with the royal court. 

Rutland dismantled the buildings, reserving the roof leads and the bells for the king. His steward at nearby Helmsley, Ralf Bawde, recorded the process of dismantling, leaving remarkably detailed accounts of the process and the form and contents of individual buildings.

 

By the beginning of the 20th century, the abbey ruins were in a state of imminent collapse. Minor repairs were carried out in 1907, but the scale of the repairs needed was such that only state intervention could save the site. The Office of Works took the ruins at Rievaulx into guardianship in July 1917. 

 

Immediate repairs were begun, in spite of the shortage of labour and materials brought about by the First World War. After 1918 Sir Frank Baines, Principal Architect at the Office of Works, devised pioneering engineering techniques at Rievaulx such as reinforced concrete beams hidden in the upper walls to stabilise the buildings. 

In the 1920s Sir Charles Peers, Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments, ordered the removal of much fallen debris to expose buried elements of the building. The work was carried out by war veterans. This policy of preservation and display set the style for the presentation of ancient monuments in Britain for the next two generations.

 

 

 

comments (9)

  • Ray
  • Thailand
  • 26 Feb 2017, 01:02
Rather nice, Alan, but I would like to see some big old oak trees much closer in to the remains of the buildings.
Alan: I expect the closer trees were felled to provide pasture for grazing for the animals.
  • CherryPie
  • Great Britain (UK)
  • 26 Feb 2017, 01:12
A photograph full of moods! Lovely light, architecture, trees and a dark foreboding sky...
Alan: Thanks, Cheryl. I was pleased with the outcome. It;s somewhere I have wanted to see for many years.
  • Martine
  • France
  • 26 Feb 2017, 02:41
Dommage qu'elle soit en ruine, elle devait être très belle.
Alan: One of the many victims of Henry VIII's stance against the ruling church at the time.
A wonderful photo - love the full view and the shadows!
Alan: Thanks, Elizabeth. I was pleased with the result. Another lovely part of England.
  • Chris
  • England
  • 26 Feb 2017, 06:50
It's a small miracle that any of it survives. Love the composition with the Abbey balanced by the shadows in the foreground
Alan: Thanks, Chris. I was happy with the result. The nearby tearoom met my approval, too.
  • Philine
  • Germany
  • 26 Feb 2017, 07:29
This is a fine image of this Abbey I saw some years ago, too. I couldn't get tired to photograph the many views through the arches and windows. One of the most impressive holy places I saw in England.
Alan: Thanks, Philine. I've been wanting to see it for myself for many years. I've been close on occasions (including on a bike ride) but last year was the first time I was able to visit.
  • Philine
  • Germany
  • 26 Feb 2017, 07:30
I remember also the nearby tearoom and giftshop.
Alan: The income from both are helpful to English Heritage.
It must have been strange to live in such a magnificent place when the aim of the monastery was to live an austere life.
Alan: I wonder if the monks thought it was magnificent at the time? It may have been the norm, of course.
Like the post from Ayush today this brings back a nice memory. Maureen and I went to beautiful Rievaulx in 1976 during a Yorkshire holiday just three months before our son Chris was born. A long time ago I posted a B.& W.image I took at that time.

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