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Fountains Abbey: Location

Fountains Abbey: History
Trials and Tribulations
Strength and Stability
End of Monastic Life

Fountains Abbey: Buildings
Chapter House
Warming House
Day Room
Lay Brothers' Range
Abbots House
Outer Court

Fountains Abbey: Lands

Fountains Abbey: People

Cistercian Life






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Plan of Fountains Abbey.(1/5)
The guesthouse

Hospitality was an integral part of monastic life and Fountains, like other Cistercian houses, made provision for guests within the precinct. The twelfth-century guest complex at Fountains is one of the most important in the country and sheds considerable light on the facilities for and distinction of guests. It comprised of two guest houses to accommodate distinguished visitors, and a large aisled guest-hall for those of lesser note. The complex lay to the west of the lay-brothers’ range, which would have ensured that visitors caused minimum disruption to the monks in the cloister. Guests would have slept and dined in the guest complex, under the auspices of the monastic official (obedientiary) known as the guestmaster or hosteller. He would have been assisted by at least one servant; in the mid-fifteenth century Thomas Taylor is named as the servant here.(102) Women would not have been entertained in the guest complex, for Cistercian legislation prohibited them from staying within the abbey precinct. Some kind of provision may have been made for them outside the West Gate, where there was a hospice of sorts certainly in the sixteenth century.(103)
[Read more about women as visitors]

The guest complex at Fountains
© Cistercians in Yorkshire Project
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The guest complex at Fountains

Visiting Cistercians were regarded as part of the wider family, rather than outsiders, and as such were accommodated within the claustral area. They would have slept in the monks’ dormitory or an adjoining chamber, and dined with the community in the refectory. Cistercian prelates may have stayed with the abbot or in the infirmary complex.

The distinction of guests in twelfth-century France
The Empress Matilda made a grant to the Cistercian abbey of Mortemer, in Rouen for the construction of two stone houses there, to provide separate accommodation for merchants, the poor, religious and the rich.
[Le Recit de la Fondation de Mortemer, ed. J. Bouvet, Collecteanea Ordinis Cisterciensium Reformatorum, 22 (1960), pp. 149-68, at p.159]

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