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Byland Abbey: Location

Byland Abbey: History
Later Middle Ages

Byland Abbey: Buildings
Chapter House
Warming House
Day Room
Lay Brothers' Range

Byland Abbey: Lands

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The chapter-house

Plan of Byland abbey showing the location of the chapter-house(1/3)

The chapter-house at Byland lay in the east range of the cloister, between the sacristy / library and the parlour. This was the typical location for a building of this kind, perhaps as it was one of the most inaccessible areas to outsiders and fairly well protected from the noise and bustle of daily life. The chapter-house was vaulted and supported by four piers, one of which survives in the south-east. It was slightly lower than the cloister and extended east of the range by one bay. The chapter-house was accessed from the cloister by a large central door, with a window on either side forming three openings, in memory of the Trinity.(25)

The chapter-house was a focal point of monastic life. It was here that the monks gathered for an hour each day to attend the chapter meeting, so called as proceedings began with the reading of a chapter from the Rule of St Benedict. The monks sat on tiered stone benches around the walls, and the remains of these are still visible. The abbot, or his deputy who presided in his place, occupied a pulpit in the eastern part of the room. There was also a lectern here for the reader and the base of this survives and can be seen in the abbey museum. There were other occasions when the community gathered in the chapter-house, for example, to discuss business or to welcome a distinguished visitor, and the entire community gathered here on feast days when the abbot delivered a sermon.
[Listen to a sermon by Aelred, abbot of Rievaulx]
Disciplinary matters were addressed in public in the chapter-house and punishment meted out, but monks might also come here to confess their sins in private to the prior. When it was too cold or windy to read or copy manuscripts, these activities might instead be carried out in the chapter-house.

The chapter-house was a common place for the burial of abbots, especially before this was permitted in the abbey church. The remains of two tomb slabs can still be seen, but there would have been many more here during the Middle Ages. It is thought that some of the slabs that are now in the churches at Brafferton, Kilburn and Oswaldkirk came originally from the chapter-house at Byland.(26)

Restless spirits
The old people tell the story of a certain James Tankerlay, one-time rector of Kereby, who was buried by the chapter-house at Byland.
Read more

In the later Middle Ages it was believed that Byland’s founder, Roger de Mowbray, was buried in Byland’s chapter-house, even though contemporary accounts stated that he had died and was buried in Palestine shortly after his capture in 1188. In the nineteenth century the chapter-house was excavated to find his tomb.
[Read more about the mystery of the Mowbray grave]

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