Rievaulx, Abbey of

views updated


Former English Cistercian abbey (Rievallis, Rievallensis abbatia), founded in 1131 by Walter Espec with monks from clairvaux, sent by St. bernard with his

secretary, William, at their head. It lay three miles north of Helmesley in the Archdiocese of York. It soon made foundations at Wardon in Bedfordshire (1135), melrose in Scotland (1136), dundrennan in Scotland (1142), Revesby in Lincolnshire (1143), and Rufford in Nottingham (114648). Under its third abbot, aelred, the community grew until it numbered 150 monks and 500 lay brothers: the buildings soon became too small, and new ones were erected, the old church forming the transept of the new. A strong literary tradition, formed by the first abbot, William, was fostered by Aelred, who wrote historical, philosophical, and theological works; it was continued into the 13th century by Walter Daniel, Aelred's biographer, by Thorald, Maurice of Durham, and Matthew of Rievaulx. The library catalogue mentions others also who left behind glossed psalters. Historical writing was discouraged by Ernaldus, eighth abbot, though he stimulated william of newburgh, a neighboring Augustinian, to undertake such work; poetry, though condemned by the general chapter of 1199, lingered on a little longer.

Rievaulx always held a commanding place among the Cistercians of the north of England, and its abbots were constantly called upon to carry out commissions both for the general chapter and for the king. Its period of greatest expansion covered the 12th and 13th centuries. At the beginning of the 14th century it suffered greatly from depredations by the Scots, particularly in 1322 when King Edward II, surprised during a meal there, fled to York for safety, leaving his silver plate and treasures at the monastery. The pursuing Scots plundered and destroyed the abbey, its buildings, and belongings. During the 15th century the abbots shared with the abbots of fountains the office of reformer for the northern province; reports of their activities, sent annually to the abbot of cÎteaux, are preserved in the archives at Dijon. They fostered the studium of St. Bernard at oxford, and a monk of Rievaulx, John Pomfret, was supervisor there c. 1456. At the time of the Dissolution, Edward Kirkby, the abbot, not being well disposed toward the impending religious changes, was removed from his post by the royal commissioners. The community would not accept this as a canonical deposition and refused to elect a successor. The abbot of Byland was ordered by the king to install another abbot; when only seven out of 23 monks would agree to vote, Richard Blyton of Rufford was intruded. The house finally surrendered Dec. 3, 1538, its value being £278 10s.

Bibliography: w. dugdale, Monasticon Anglicanum (London 165573) 5:274286. Cartularium abbathiae de Rievalle ordinis cisterciensis, ed. j. c. atkinson (Surtees Society 83; Newcastle 1889). Yorkshire Star Chamber Proceedings (Yorkshire Archaeological Society 45; 1911). j. m. canivez, ed., Statuta capitulorum generalium ordinis cisterciensis, 8 v. (Louvain 193341). The Victoria History of the County of York, ed. w. page, 4 v. and index (London 190713) v.3. c. h. talbot, "The Centrum Sententiae of Walter Daniel," Sacris erudiri, 11 (Bruges 1960) 266383.

[c. h. talbot]