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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

View Movies The warming-house (calefactory)

Plan of Kirkstall abbey showing the location of the warming house(1/1)

The warming-house, or calefactory, was situated on the southern range between the day-room and refectory. It was a large vaulted room which was originally c. 9m x 6m but almost doubled in size in the early thirteenth century when it was expanded westwards, probably to accommodate the new daystairs to the monks’ dormitory. In the fifteenth century the warming-house was rebuilt and reduced in size. Whilst the warming-house was at first entered by a door in the northern wall, doorways were inserted at either end of the west wall in the fifteenth century.

Artist's impression of monks cleaning boots in the warming house © Cistercians in Yorkshire
Artist's impression of monks cleaning boots in the warming house

The warming-house was so named as a large fire burned here all day long, making this one of the warmest spots in the precinct, since the only other fires permitted were in the infirmary and kitchen. In the fifteenth-century a large fireplace with a hooded chimney, which can still be seen in the western wall, replaced an earlier hearth that was floored with thick, unglazed red tiles; these were uncovered during the excavations of 1152. Whilst the warming-house was used by the monks to warm themselves, the heat here meant that this was an appropriate place for scribes to prepare ink for their parchment and where shoes could be greased. Bloodletting, a restorative treatment that each monk received four times a year, was also carried out here.

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