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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 guesthouse

Hospitality was an integral part of monastic life and Byland, like other Cistercian houses, made provision for guests within the precinct. At the time of the Dissolution, it was said that of all the religious houses in the North of England, Byland made the greatest contribution to hospitality.(57)

A distinguished visitor
On 19 July 1308 Archbishop Greenfield of York spent the night at Byland Abbey; the following evening he stayed at Rievaulx.
[Register Greenfield III, Surtees Society 151 (1936), no. 1176 (p. 22).]

Today, there are no remains of the guest complex at Byland, but the community would probably have had similar facilities to Fountains, where the outline of an aisled guest hall and the standing remains of two guest houses can still be seen. Whereas more distinguished visitors would have been accommodated in the guest houses, those of lesser note would have been provided for in the hall.
Visiting Cistercians, however, would have dined with the monastic community in the refectory and slept with the Byland monks in their dormitory or an adjoining room.
[Read about the guest complex and hospitality at Fountains]

Stone games board from Byland
© Cistercians in Yorkshire Project
<click to enlarge>
Stone games board from Byland

Not everyone who visited the abbey would have stayed as a guest, but many would have been refreshed in the guest house, where the abbot presided as host. It is unclear to what extent visitors would have mingled with the monastic community. Whilst official legislation and, indeed, contemporary criticism of the Cistercians’ exclusiveness suggest that there was little interaction between the monks and their guests, specific examples reveal that this was not always so. For instance, the Augustinian Canon, William of Newburgh, describes how he had often heard the colourful reminiscences of an elderly monk, Wimund, when he visited the house. Furthermore, it was at Abbot Roger of Byland’s instigation that William wrote his commentary on the Song of Songs:

Your frequent and sacred wishes, Father Roger, have projected from me,
after a great deal of labour, the exposition of the sacred epithelium for
the glorious Virgin Mary. How, either with respect to the Church, or
with respect to the meritorious soul, that nuptial song should be
understood has been explained by outstanding men in excellent works …
If your dignity desires that my slight abilities be tried, I will promptly
and devotedly follow your order.

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