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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

The warming house (calefactory)

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

The warming-house lay in the southern range between the day-room and refectory. This was a large room that was entered from the cloister, and originally had a three-bay aisle. It was later vaulted, presumably to make it fireproof.

The warming-house was so named as a large fire burned here during the day from 1 November until Good Friday, making this one of the warmest spots in the precinct. The double fireplace by the west wall dates from the late twelfth century .

The warming-house at Rievaulx
© Cistercians in Yorkshire Project
<click to enlarge>
The warming-house at Rievaulx

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.

In the later Middle Ages the room above the warming house was used as a store for important documents, presumably as the heat from the fires below would have kept the room damp-free.

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