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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

Cistercian Life







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Byland under Abbot Roger (1142-1196)

The Lord blessed them and they advanced from poverty to great opulence,
under father Roger, a man of singular integrity, who still survives in a
fruitful old age having nearly completed the fifty-seventh year of

[William of Newburgh, twelfth-century Augustinian Canon]

A cantankerous monk
One rather colourful recruit was Wimund, the former bishop of the Isle of Man, who retired to Byland after he had been blinded and castrated by his enemies. There, he related his tales to those who would listen and vowed that had he only the eye of a sparrow he would wreak vengeance on his enemies.
[Read the full story of this ‘fisher turned hunter’, who was blinded and castrated by his enemies]

The twelfth century was an unsettling time for the monks of Byland, who occupied no fewer than five sites and, with the absorption of the Savigniac order within the Cistercian family, underwent a change of identity. The lengthy and successful abbacy of Roger brought stability to the community in this uncertain period. Roger, who had formerly officiated as sub-cellarer and master of the novices, presided over the monks for more than fifty years.(25) He led the community to Old Byland, Stocking and New Byland, oversaw its transition to the Cistercian way of life, and drew benefactors and recruits. Furthermore, he initiated the construction of the new monastery at Byland, as well as the substantial temporary buildings at Stocking, where the monks remained for thirty years. The church at Byland was, in fact, the largest in the country at this time, and has been described as one of the most ambitious Cistercian churches in twelfth-century Europe.(26)

Greed and ambition
There were many who condemned, rather than admired, the Cistercians’ rapid accumulation of lands. Two of their harshest critics were the satirists Gerald of Wales and Walter Map, who maintained that the monks of Byland hatched a violent plan to secure the estate of their knightly neighbour.
Read more about their ambitious scheme

Roger also developed a solid economic framework by attracting patronage and thereby expanding the community’s holdings. Donors at this time included William, son of Osbert of Denby. He granted the monks twenty-four acres of land in Pilatecroft, Denby, with common pasture for 200 sheep, twenty beasts and two horses, as well as the right to freely dig the iron ore in Claverlay. In return for his generosity William expected prayers for his soul and the annual payment of three shillings.(27) Byland received a number of grants from relatives and tenants of its patron, Roger de Mowbray, and from other great men such as William de Percy.(28) This period of accumulation was also a time of hardship. When Roger de Mowbray, left on Crusade in 1147, the Stuteville family saw an opportunity to reclaim lands of theirs that had passed to Roger and which he, in turn, had given to Byland. Roger rose to the defence of his community, and instructed his officials to protect the monks and their land ‘as if it were their own.’ (29)
[Read more about Byland’s lands and resources]

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