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Fountains Abbey: Location

Fountains Abbey: History
Origins
Sources
Foundation
Consolidation
Trials and Tribulations
Strength and Stability
End of Monastic Life

Fountains Abbey: Buildings
Precinct
Church
Cloister
Sacristy
Library
Chapter House
Parlour
Dormitory
Warming House
Day Room
Refectory
Kitchen
Lay Brothers' Range
Abbots House
Infirmary
Outer Court
Gatehouse
Guesthouse

Fountains Abbey: Lands

Fountains Abbey: People

Cistercian Life

Abbeys

People

Multimedia

Glossary

Bibliography

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Sources

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A ring for sealing documents, perhaps belonging to Abbot Huby
© Fountains Abbey
<click to enlarge>
A ring for sealing documents

Unfortunately the surrender deed that the community signed on 26 November 1539, and which ended monastic life at Fountains, has not survived. However, other sixteenth-century documents, pre- and post-dating the Dissolution of the abbey, reveal much about monastic life at Fountains at the close of the Middle Ages. These include a lease book, compiled during the abbacies of William Thirsk and Marmaduke Huby, the last two abbots of Fountains. The community had apparently retained much of its land in hand until shortly before the Dissolution, and the lease book reveals details about the duties of tenants and keepers.(5) An inventory taken at the time of the Dissolution lists the weight and value of gold and silver plate belonging to the abbey. It mentions a gold cross, set with stones, wherein lay part of Christ’s cross, weighing fourteen ounces and valued at £30 2s; an image of St James weighed over sixty ounces.(6) A list of pensions awarded to the monks upon their surrender of the abbey has also survived.(7)

‘Farewell freedom’
Excavations at the abbey in the nineteenth century revealed an interesting piece of graffiti on the walls of the former prison: the words Vale libertas (‘Farewell freedom’) had been etched onto the wall. The fact that this was a Latin inscription suggests that disobedient monks, rather than lay-brothers, were kept here. Sadly this inscription is no longer visible.

Many visual remains of monastic life at Fountains survive to complement these written documents. These include a wide-range of artefacts recovered during excavation of the site, such as wax seals, taps, a sickle head, rings, meat bones, pieces of sculpture, the tombs of former abbots and patrons, and even graffiti. Not least of all, the magnificent ruins of Fountains are a fine tribute and testimony to monastic life at the abbey during the Middle Ages, and can shed considerable light on the history, life and organisation of the community.

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