North York Moors National Park
What is it?
One of the most complete and impressive abbeys in Britain, founded by Cistercian monks in 1132.
Why it is special?
Founded by St Bernard of Clairvaux, white monks from France built Rievaulx as the first Cistercian abbey in northern England. The scale of the abbey is breathtaking and it was a powerful symbol of ecclesiastical power in medieval England.
At is peak in the mid 12th century it was one of the wealthiest abbeys in England, home to 140 monks and many more lay brothers. They traded wool, lead and iron throughout Europe.
However by the time of the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII in 1536-40, war, famine and disease had reduced the population of the abbey to 23.
Tell us something we didn’t know
2010 marks the 900 year anniversary of the birth of Rievaulx’s most famous figurehead, Aelred. He was the abbey’s third Abbot who presided over its ‘golden age’.
Under his leadership the abbey’s population doubled and its buildings and lands extended to as far north as Teesside. Aelred advocated a greener, ‘back-to-basics’ lifestyle for the monks, unlike their Benedictine counterparts, which attracted pilgrims from far and wide.
How to get there
Rievaulx Abbey is just over two miles from Helmsley on a minor road off the B1257.
Helmsley is accessible by bus from Scarborough (service 128), Malton (bus 194 and 195) and York (bus 31X).
Take the Moorsbus between Helmsley and the Abbey during the summer months: