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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

View Movies The refectory

Plan of Kirkstall abbey showing the location of the church(1/3)

The refectory was one of the first buildings constructed at Kirkstall and was completed during Alexander’s abbacy, i.e. before 1182. It stood on the southern range and was originally placed on an east-west axis but in the early thirteenth century it was rebuilt along a north-south alignment. By changing the layout of the refectory in this way the kitchen could be accommodated in the southern range and accessed directly from the cloister. The first refectory at Kirkstall measured c. 21m x 10m internally; after the rebuilding it extended over 30m and had a tiled floor, remains of which can be seen. The roof was timbered and covered with flagstones.

Artist's impression of monks refectory at Kirkstall
Cistercians in Yorkshire Project
<click to enlarge>
Artist's impression of monks refectory house  Cistercians in Yorkshire

The monks ate in the refectory once a day in winter and twice in summer when a light supper supplemented dinner to sustain the community through the longer days. The monks also entered the refectory for drinks such as those served after Nones. Fish and vegetables were eaten here but meat was prohibited by the General Chapter; it was later permitted once or twice a week but was to be served in a separate room, the misericord. By the fifteenth century there was a two-storey refectory at Kirkstall – the misericord was situated in the lower level; the main refectory was located on the upper level and accessed by stone stairs.