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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

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Early Cistercian legislation forbade the reception of women, although those who were dignified might be refreshed in the vill.(6) By the mid-twelfth century the General Chapter made concessions and it was agreed that women might enter the church on the day of its dedication and the Octave, but breastfeeding women were still prohibited.(7) Over the years individual abbeys might negotiate more flexible terms and in 1401 the abbot of Kirkstall was notified of a papal receipt permitting women to enter his church on those days when access was given to men.(8) Whilst women were allowed into the church on certain stated occasions they were still forbidden from entering any of the other buildings.

Those who disregarded these rules were punished: in 1246 the prior and cellarer of Beaulieu were dismissed for they had served meat to guests attending the dedication of the church and had permitted Queen Eleanor to stay in the infirmary for almost three weeks to tend the young Prince Edward, who had taken ill after the ceremony.(9) Clearly, as far as the General Chapter was concerned, there were to be no concessions to status, or at least, any concessions simply extended to their admittance and not include overnight stays. This is quite different to the Benedictines - in the twelfth century Abbot Geoffrey of St Albans (1119-46) actually constructed a chamber for the queen(10) (thalamus reginae), where she might reside when visiting the abbey; the chronicler of St Albans states that she was the only woman permitted to stay within the precinct.(11)