"Rievaulx Abbey" Top 5 Page for this destination United Kingdom Off The Beaten Path Tip by margaretvn
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The almost majestic wonderful ruins of this beautiful abbey lie in the steep woody valley of the river Rye. The abbey was founded in 1132 by the French Cistercian order from Clairvaulx. It was their first major monastery in Britain and it lay almost completely surrounded by steep riverbanks, which formed a natural barrier to the outside world. The enormous Cistercian house, which numbered about 150 monks and 500 lay brethren at one time, was the nucleus from which other northern abbeys were colonised. The Cistercian religion rarely broke with convention when building and used a east-west axis for their buildings. At Rievaulx Abbey the church had to be built on a north-south axis because of the deeply sloping ground levels.
The model for the first church, which was built about 1135 to 1145, was probably based on the mother church in Clairvaulx; it reflected the functional austerity of the time. Then, following a partial demolition of the “eastern end” the religious community rebuilt following a much more elaborate and decorative style with moulded arches, lancet windows and clustered columns. The site is about 15 acres, and there are many outbuildings. The monks’ refectory is still more obvious – it was a beautiful dining hall about 124 feet long and 50 feet high. It was supported by an undercroft built into the terraced ground. There is still a lot of arcading and some of the lancet windows there, which give you a good idea of the former loveliness of the building.
Rievaulx Abbey is under the care of English Heritage today. On the eastern side of the site is the Rievaulx Terrace, which is owned by the National Trust. This grassy higher ridge gives you a wonderful viewing area for the whole site.
Open all year but closed 24 -26 December.
It is just off the B1257 just 2 miles west of Helmsley
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