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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

The layout of the infirmary


A QuickTime Tour of the infirmary cloister at Rievaulx

The infirmary complex usually consisted of a large stone aisled hall and chapel, a latrine block, kitchen and perhaps also a bath-house. Fresh air and gentle exercise were important to aid recovery and the infirmary often had its own cloister with open arcades where the inmates could sit or take a stroll; part of the arcade at Rievaulx has been reconstructed in the north alley. The large aisled hall would have been spacious, airy and warm, or at least warmer than the monks’ dormitory, where heating was forbidden. Original fireplaces survive at several sites, including Rievaulx and Tintern (Monmouthshire). Early infirmary halls were generally designed as open-plan wards, with the beds arranged around the walls. In the later Middle Ages, greater emphasis was placed on privacy and comfort, which often led to the creation of individual cells. This was the case at Meaux Abbey (Yorkshire) in the fourteenth century, and at Tintern (Monmouthshire) in the fifteenth century.

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