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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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The layout of the western range


The western range at Fountains
© Cistercians in Yorkshire Project
<click to enlarge>
The western range at Fountains

The undercroft of the western range is today a long open space. However, in the Middle Ages this area would have been screened off to form various chambers, thereby giving a very different sense of space. At the northernmost end, nearest the church, was the outer parlour. Here, merchants might conduct business, and the monks could speak with any family and friends who visited. Adjoining this was a six-bay cellar. Grains, salted foods and other provisions, as well as hides and wool that were to be taken to market or sold to merchants might be stored here. The entrance to the cloister stood beside the cellar; access to the cloister was closely monitored by a porter, who had a seat here. The lay-brothers’ refectory occupied the remaining twelve bays. The tables here would have been arranged around the walls and the lay-brothers, like the monks, would have sat facing inwards. In contrast to the monks’ refectory, there was no reading during the lay-brothers’ meals and consequently there was no pulpitum here. Nevertheless, the lay-brothers were to remain silent while eating and to observe good table manners. The lay-brothers ate the same food as the monks but generally received larger portions on account of their heavy labour. They were also served a light breakfast, the mixt, which was taken by novices, servers and the infirm. Their food was prepared in the same kitchen as the monks’ and was passed to the refectory through a serving hatch. The lay-brothers at Fountains may also have gathered in the refectory for their weekly chapter meeting.

Stairs to the lay-brothers' dormitory at Fountains
© Cistercians in Yorkshire Project
<click to enlarge>
The western range at Fountains

An open-plan dormitory occupied the entire upper level of the western range. Each lay-brother, like each monk, would have had a mat, pillow and a light covering, but unlike the monks, the lay-brothers had animal skins rather than woollen blankets.(77) The open flight of stone stairs which provided daytime access to the lay-brothers’ dormitory has survived in its entirety.

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