Rievaulx Abbey by John Barnes

Rievaulx Abbey

In 1182 the first Cistercian monasteries were built in the British Isles with Rievaulx being built three years later. The intention was to make the Abbey a centre for Cistercian reform in the north under the direction of Abbot William. Its patron was Walter Espec, Lord of Helmsley, an active supporter of ecclesiastical reform who provided the land. However Rievaulx’s founding monastery was Clairvaux in France and its Abbot, Bernard, wrote to King Henry I to enlist his support in the development of the monastic order. The early Cistercians saw themselves as spiritualised militia taking the fight to the north. In a similar vein Abbot Bernard also became the sponsor and patron of the Knights Templar. The Abbey expanded and became a glorious and flourishing community. However its decline came under King Henry VIII when he closed numerous monasteries including Rievaulx, claiming sedition after the uprising of the Pilgrimage of Grace. Rievaulx still retains the monastic grace and grandeur of a time that has past and gone.