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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic



Surrender deed. The monks' signatures can be seen at the bottom.
©Public Record Office
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A wide range of sources survives for the history of Rievaulx. The twelfth century is particularly well documented and, although there is no surviving chronicle, Walter Daniel’s Life of Aelred (the third abbot of Rievaulx) offers a rich insight to monastic life during the abbey’s hey-day. Walter tells us about the administration of the abbey and the building work that was undertaken, but he also conveys a sense of the joys and hardships experienced by those who were members of the community in the twelfth century.

The small parchment cartulary of Rievaulx comprises 193 folios and dates from the late twelfth century.(1) This is a relatively early compilation. Most of the charters are undated and arranged by family and not according to the location of the grant, as was most often the case. This unusual arrangement suggests that the Rievaulx community was primarily concerned with the links between its benefactors.(2) The cartulary includes copies of charters, letters of protection and privileges. It also contains a chronological list of the abbey’s benefactors from 1132-1188, the ‘Memorial of Benefactors’, which shows the development of the community’s land-holdings during the twelfth century and is integral to any analysis of the abbey’s economy at this time.(3)

Other surviving documents include the surrender deed of the abbey (above), which was signed by the community in 1538 and marked the end of monastic life in the valley of the Rye.

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