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Ailred of Rievaulx

Ailred of Rievaulx (1110–67), known as the ‘St Bernard of the North’, was the leading figure in the Cistercian order in England in the mid-12th cent. The son of a priest of Hexham (Northd.), he seemed set for a secular career, entering the service of David I of Scotland, c.1130. But in 1134 he entered the abbey of Rievaulx (north Yorks.), where he remained for nine years as novice and monk before being chosen as first abbot of Revesby (Lincs.), daughter house of Rievaulx. Just four years later he was recalled to be abbot of Rievaulx itself. Largely because of Ailred's inspiration and guidance, his gentleness and humanism, Rievaulx emerged as the chief centre of Cistercian influence in England. The monastery itself prospered and expanded, its numbers increasing to 150 choir monks and 500 lay brothers and servants, and four more daughter houses were established in England and Scotland. Ailred himself became a figure of national importance, beyond Cistercian circles, through his many friends, contacts, and writings. These include his treatise on friendship, the Speculum caritatis, and his Sermons on Isaiah, probably his finest work. Of delicate health, he was constantly ill and in pain in the last ten years of his life. He died in his beloved Rievaulx on 12 January 1167, and was buried in the chapter house.

S. D. Lloyd

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