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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 Fountains family


This [Newminster] was the first seed our vine put forth;
this was the first swarm which went from our hive. The
holy seed sprouted in the soil and, being cast as it were
in the lap of fertile earth, grew to a great plant, and from
a few grains there sprang a plentiful harvest.
[‘Foundation history of Fountains’ (Narratio)]

Robert of Newminster
He was modest in demeanour, gentle in company, merciful in judgement and notable for his holy life.
[‘Foundation history of Fountains’ (Narratio), p. 187.]
Robert had been a Benedictine monk of Whitby, but joined the Fountains community soon after its arrival at Skelldale.
Read more about Robert

The Fountains community had stood firm in the face of adversity and weathered the storm to establish deep and enduring roots. Now, some five years after the reformers had fled from St Mary’s, Fountains’ future was secure. The community’s reputation spread, attracting recruits and benefactors who wished to be in some way affiliated to such a praiseworthy abbey. Ralph de Merley, lord of Morpeth, was so impressed that he granted Fountains land on his estate in Northumberland to found another monastery, Newminster [Novum Monasterium]. In the January of 1139, when the necessary buildings had been erected, Fountains sent a colony of its monks under the leadership of Robert, to start a new community at Newminster. The fact that Fountains had the numbers and resources to found Newminster – and the other daughter-houses that soon followed - was testimony to the abbey’s success and commitment to the Cistercian policy of expansion, a tradition strongly upheld by Fountains’ mother-house, Clairvaux, which had fostered a large and wide-spread family. Fountains soon expanded into Lincolnshire, founding daughter-houses at Kirkstead and Louth Park. The two monks of Fountains sent to lead these new communities, Robert of Sewell and Gervase, had been members of the founding community that had fled from St Mary’s in the tumult of 1132.

The Fountains family tree
© Cistercians in Yorkshire Project
<click to enlarge>
The Fountains family tree

The first book of the foundation history ends with the death of Abbot Richard, described as his ‘falling asleep’. Abbot Richard had seen the Fountains community through difficult times and led them to stability, security and success. He had established the abbey’s renown and was himself highly reputed. Indeed, he greatly impressed Bishop Alberic of Ostia, the papal legate whom he guided around the North of England and Scotland in 1138, and accompanied to Rome. This, however, was to be Richard’s final journey, for he contracted a fever en route and died at Rome, where he was buried in 1139:

[the Lord] took him from his pilgrimage to his home, from
toil to the longed-for rest of God
. (40)

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