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Fountains abbey

Fountains abbey (Yorks.) was founded in Skelldale in 1132 by a group of dissident reforming monks of Benedictine St Mary's, York, under the direction of Archbishop Thurstan. In 1133 they adopted the Cistercian rule. After initial difficulties and in spite of the sack of the abbey, whose abbot, Henry Murdac, had been appointed archbishop of York in 1146, by supporters of William fitzHerbert, a rival claimant, the community flourished, attracting benefactions and recruits from many of the magnates and lords of northern England. It established several daughter houses, as well as Lysa in Norway. The mismanagement of its largely pastoral economy at the end of the 13th cent. brought Fountains close to ruin. Political unrest and Scottish raids contributed to the crisis, and a falling population led to declining monastic numbers and a switch to a rentier economy. Nevertheless, the late Middle Ages saw substantial building works, partly consequent on a relaxation of monastic discipline, and at the dissolution Fountains was still the wealthiest Cistercian abbey in England. Though much of the abbey was used to build Fountains Hall, the surviving ruins and precincts (landscaped in the 18th cent.) are amongst the most impressive Cistercian remains in Europe.

Brian Golding

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Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey, ruined Cistercian abbey, West Riding of Yorkshire, N England, near Ripon. It was founded in 1132.

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