go to home page go to byland abbey pages go to fountains abbey pages go to kirkstall abbey pages go to rievaulx abbey pages go to roche abbey pages
The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

Text only version

About the Project






Contact Us

Stephen of Sawley (Easton)

Where (In heaven) he is radiant in glory as a worker of miracles.(1)

Stephen was born in Easton, Yorkshire, in the late twelfth century and is often known as ‘Stephen of Easton’. He had economic ties with the abbey of Fountains and when he decided to enter the monastic life, he withdrew to Fountains and was there moulded in the Cistercian way of life. Stephen held the prestigious office of cellarer at Fountains c. 1215, and in 1223 was chosen by the monks of Sawley, a grand-daughter of Fountains, to preside as abbot over their community. He held this post for ten years and during this time is known to have attended the annual General Chapter at Cîteaux in 1226 and 1230. In 1234 Stephen left Sawley to take up the abbacy at its mother-house, Newminster, in Northumberland, and remained here until 1247 when he was elected to the abbacy of his former community, Fountains. Stephen presided as abbot of Fountains until his death in September 1252. He died at Fountains’ daughter-house, Vaudey, in Lincolnshire, where he had been conducting an annual visitation of the abbey. He was buried in Vaudey’s chapter-house in front of the abbot’s chair – a privileged and prominent position.

At your first opportunity, at any hour of the day or night, chase from your heart all carnal imaginings and lift up your mind to the one supreme principle and creator of all things: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Do this not as an intellectual exercise to comprehend Him or to satisfy your curiosity, but through Faith.
[Stephen of Sawley, ‘Threefold Exercise’, first meditation.]

Surviving works attributed to Stephen include treatises, ‘A Mirror for Novices’, and meditations (on the Virgin). These demonstrate his knowledge of grammar, of the Scriptures and liturgy, the Church Fathers and also Cistercian writers. They also reflect his concern to offer instruction to monks and novices alike.(2)