|Nestled in the quiet valley of the River Rye, Rievaulx Abbey has been watching over these fields since the year 1132. Rievaulx was the first and most important Cistercian abbey in Britain and served as a centre for monastic colonization of England and Scotland. In its heyday, the community grew to 140 choir monks and 500 lay brothers and lay servants. When the abbey was suppressed (read "had its roof ripped off") by Henry VIII in 1538, there were only 22 monks supported by no fewer than 102 paid servants.|
|There is a fascinating historical
display building to the right of the abbey, which includes such wonders
as a whiff of the tannery that was placed right beside the dining hall.
I have never smelt anything so vile in my life. Turns out the main ingredient
in their tanning solution was urine!
Long hailed for the beauty of its setting, the abbey is ledged one third of the way up from the valley floor on a series of man-made terraces. In order to maximize the acreage under cultivation, the monks rerouted the River Rye twice. Today, the serene and silent ruins are a far cry from the hustle and bustle that must have made up the medieval community. We visited Reivaulx late on a sunny afternoon, and we were practically the only people there. But there were lots of garden-variety birds hopping about the lawns, including inside the presbytery. We spotted Pied Wagtails, Blackbirds, Rooks, Missle Thrushes, a Common Pheasant, Greenfinch, and Wood Pigeons. And we saw our first ever Hedgehog snuffling around for worms.