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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 endowment


Map showing the location of Fountains Abbey
© Cistercians in Yorkshire
<click to enlarge>
Fountains abbey from the air

He [Thurstan] granted to them by the grace of God a place of habitation
in the estate of the blessed Peter, a place uninhabited for all
the centuries back, thick set with thorns, lying between the
slopes of mountains and among rocks jutting out on both sides;
… . Its name was Skelldale..

[‘Foundation history of Fountains’ (Narratio)] (4)

At the archbishop of York’s Christmas celebrations at Ripon in 1132, the group of monks who had fled from St Mary’s, York, in October of that year and had since then been sheltered by their patron, Archbishop Thurstan, received from him a grant of land to establish a monastic community.(5) The site was in the valley of the River Skell, a rather bleak and inhospitable spot only a few miles from the archbishop’s manor at Ripon. Thurstan also gave the monks two carucates (about 120 / 140 acres) of arable land in the vill of Sutton, to the north of Skelldale. One of the archbishop’s men, Wallef, son of Arkill, supplemented this endowment with two hundred acres in the wood of How Hill [Herleshowe], which lay to the south of the River Skell, less than a mile from the community ’s site.(6)

A sure footing
From that day onwards God blessed our valleys … He multiplied the number of the brethren and added to their possessions, spreading out his vine and watering it with showers of blessing. So it sent its root downwards and bore fruit above, growing day by day and ever becoming stronger, until, in a little while, it became a great vine.
[‘Foundation history of Fountains’ (Narratio), pp. 185-6]

This endowment enabled the monks to establish an independent community. It was an adequate, but by no means extensive grant, and the monks struggled for survival. The community had been on the point of disbanding when several wealthy recruits arrived in 1135, bringing with them riches and resources. This marked a turning point and within a remarkably short time Fountains acquired a number of holdings and soon established itself as the richest Cistercian abbey in the country.

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