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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

Women as benefactors


… for the love of God and the salvation of my soul and the souls
of my father, mother and my lord, Walter of Toulouse, and of
my predecessors and successors, I, Emma of Toulouse, give to
God and St Mary and the monks of Kirkstall seven acres of land
in the field of Pontefract …

Late twelfth century grant to Byland
© British Library
<click to enlarge>
Late twelfth century grant to Byland

Women supported the Cistercian Order as benefactors and patrons. By doing so they were able to participate in Cistercian life and also secure their salvation, through requesting prayers, masses and, later on, burial within the abbey precinct.

Roger de Mowbray, a leading baron in the North of England, was persuaded by his mother, Gundreda, to act as patron to the group of monks who later formed the Byland community. Gundreda was also a generous to the monks of Rievaulx, to whom she granted land at Welburn, 1138-43.

Women of all ranks bestowed their generosity upon the Yorkshire abbeys, whether acting independently or along with their husband or son. Whereas Eleanor of Studely, a woman of considerable means, made her first grant to Fountains Abbey in the late thirteenth century, as an unmarried woman, Cassandra, the wife of John the innkeeper, acted jointly with her husband to give the monks a carucate of land in Malham.(2)