was the second of the Yorkshire houses to be founded. In spite
rather inauspicious beginnings, Fountains became the largest and
richest of the Northern abbeys and headed an extensive family that
to the shores of Norway. Fountains stemmed from the Benedictine
house of St Mary’s,
York, where a group of reform-minded monks fled from their abbey
a harsher and more disciplined way of monastic life. They were
at first sheltered by Archbishop Thurstan,
who assumed the role of patron and adviser. Thurstan later
settled the community on land at Skeldale, near
manor at Ripon. The monks were not at this time part of the Cistercian
community, but were soon welcomed within the family of White Monks.
Among his (Thurstan’s) other good
works we must above all attribute to his devoted enthusiasm
and scrupulous diligence the foundation and development of
the most famous monastery of Fountains Finally he set
them in a place of pasture. The place is called Fountains,
where continuously from that time onwards so many have drunk,
as it were, from the Saviour’s fountains the waters
that leap up to eternal life.
suffered severe hardships in its early years and was on the
point of disbanding. However, the arrival of several wealthy
recruits brought a change in fortunes and secured the abbey's future.
endowment flourished thereafter and by the late twelfth century
Fountains had lands in over two hundred places. Throughout the
Middle Ages Fountains played a prominent role in Cistercian, ecclesiastical
and political affairs.
Indeed, Abbot Henry
Murdac (1144-7) spearheaded
opposition to William Fitzherbert's appointment to the see of
York. Fountains also made an important contribution to poor relief
during the famine of 1194-6 that afflicted Western Europe. The
community helped a
who flocked to the abbey gates, extending spiritual and bodily
experienced financial problems in the 1290s and, like all of the
in the early fourteenth century. The abbey recovered its fortunes
in the fifteenth century and by the time of the Dissolution Fountains
the richest Cistercian abbey in Britain and the twenty-fourth
wealthiest house in the country.
Today, the ruins at Fountains include some of
the most significant Cistercian remains in Europe, notably, the
western range and the oldest surviving Cistercian water-mill. Excavations
at Fountains have uncovered the remains of the first timber buildings,
which were begun in 1134.
On the pages that follow you can read about
the abbeys history, lands and buildings.
You will soon be able to view a panoramic tour of the site, to
see a Quicktime movie of the newly-restored muniment room,
tour the models that we have built of the church and the monastic