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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

The Church
Plan of Rievaulx abbey showing the location of the church(1/8)

Good wine should be strong, like the building of a Cistercian monastery.
[Alexander of Nequam, twelfth-century Augustinian canon of Cirencester]

The church stood at the heart of Cistercian life and brought together communal worship, private prayer, ceremony and ritual. The building dominated the precinct physically and also structured the monks’ day, for the community visited the church at least eight times daily to celebrate the Canonical Hours. The Romanesque church at Rievaulx was one of the first of the abbey buildings to be constructed in stone, and the nave and transepts date from Aelred’s abbacy in the mid-twelfth century. This church replaced a smaller and simpler one which had served Abbot William and the first community of monks. There are now no traces of William’s church, but its location is known from geophysical survey conducted in 1996.(1)
Throughout the Middle Ages there were alterations and changes to the architecture and the décor of the church, most notably in the early thirteenth century when the presbytery was remodelled. A new seven-bay aisled presbytery in the Early English style replaced the rather short eastern arm. This provided more room for chapels and also an appropriate resting place for Aelred’s shrine, which was translated here from the chapter-house.

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