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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

View Movies The north and south transepts


Kirkstall abbey piscina
© Stuart Harrison
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Kirkstall abbey piscina  Stuart Harrison

Both the north and south transept had three chapels where private masses could be celebrated by ordained members of the community. Each chapel was enclosed by a screen, there was a drain in the south wall where the vessels were washed and a niche where the sacraments might be placed. By the thirteenth century the floors here were tiled but before this there may have been cobbles, slabs or simply earth.

The monks' nightstairs at Kirkstall
© Cistercians in Yorkshire Project
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The nightstair at Kirkstall

In the SW corner of the south transept the remains of the monks’ nightstairs can be seen. These ran from the monks’ dormitory and provided covered access to the church for night services; during the day the monks entered from the cloister door. Between the north and middle chapels of the south transept an image stood on a pedestal. As at Rievaulx, this may have been of St Christopher, whose image was meant to protect the beholder from a sudden death that day;(4) presumably there were no such guarantees against a long, gruelling death. A door in the north transept a door opened out to the monks’ cemetery and this was used at funerals. In the late nineteenth century ghostly apparitions were reported and witnesses claimed to have seen a funeral procession of sombre men, clad in white, proceeding slowly down the nave.

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