spot was by a powerful stream called the Rye in a broad valley
stretching on either side. The name of their little settlement
and of the place where it lies was derived from the name
stream and the valley, Rievaulx. High hills surround the valley,
encircling it like a crown. These are clothed by trees of
sorts and maintain in pleasant retreats the privacy of the vale,
providing for the monks a kind of second paradise of wooded
The abbey of Rievaulx was founded as the first
Cistercian outpost in the North, and was to be a centre for White
Monks to reform and colonise the North of England
was instigated by Bernard of Clairvaux
and planned with military precision. The abbey attracted-profile
benefactors such as Henry I and David of Scotland, and a number
of recruits from the locality and further afield. The most prominent
recruit was Aelred of Rievaulx,
who was abbot from 1147 until 1167.
Rievaulx was intended to be as a mission centre
from which the White Monks successfully spread across the country.
By the thirteenth century Rievaulx had founded a family of no less
than nineteen abbeys.(2) Rievaulx was
renowned for its sheep-farming and export of wool, but the abbey
was also an active patron of culture. Rievaulx's fortunes changed
from the late thirteenth century, when the abbey suffered severe
problems: war, famine and plague. By the time of the Dissolution
in 1538 the community numbered twenty-three.
The impressive ruins at Rievaulx include extensive
remains of the church, which was one of the finest in the North,
and claustral buildings; five arches from the original cloister
On the pages that follow you can read about the
abbeys history, lands and buildings and go on a tour of the
site. In the near future you will be able to tour the models we
have built of the church and the monastic precincts.