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By Linda Lee

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A ithout doubt, the greatest glory of Rievaulx Abbey is the splendid roofless church. Rarely did the Cistercians break with convention when planning the layout of a monastery but, because of severely sloping ground levels here, the church had to be built more on a north-south axis, as opposed to the traditional eastwest. The first church, built before 1145, was probably modelled on the Mother House at Clairvaulx and certainly reflected the functional austerity of that time. When the community undertook a rebuilding programme during the thirteenth century, a far more elaborate style with clustered columns, heavily moulded arches and elegant lancet windows was introduced.

It would have been a splendid occasion for Richard Earl of Cornwall, who had founded the abbey in honour of his life being spared by a tragedy at sea. Five decades earlier his father, King John, had founded Beaulieu Abbey, and it seemed appropriate that he should colonise his foundation with a group of monks from there. T hortly after the abbey church had been completed, the east end was elaborately extended to provide a suitable shrine for the phial of Holy Blood that was presented to the abbey.

A manse (minister’s house) and stables were erected over H 45 the west range, and mills were built at the south-east corner of the cloister that remained in use until the 1960s. particularly delightful aspect of Jedburgh Abbey is the reconstructed cloister garden, which has been designed and planted to give an impression of the typical monastic garden from the 1500s. The cloister garden not only provided the space for growing essential herbs, used regularly in cooking and medicinal recipes, but it was also a quiet area away from the abbey where the monks could spend periods of contemplation.

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