Rievaulx Abbey was founded in 1132 by twelve monks from Clairvaux Abbey as a mission for the colonisation of the north of England and Scotland. It was the first Cistercian abbey in the north. With time it became one of the great Cistercian abbeys of Yorkshire, second only to Fountains Abbey in fame.
Its remote location was ideal for the Cistercians, whose desire was to follow a strict life of prayer and self-sufficiency with little contact with the outside world.
Rievaulx Abbey certainly is the impressive ruins of one of England’s most powerful Cistercian monasteries.
Rievaulx was at the hub of a trade network that extended as far as Italy. Fleeces from the abbey’s flocks were highly prized and Reivaulx became very rich. The period from about 1270 to 1400 was one of change and often difficulty. In the late 13th century, epidemics devastated the abbey’s flocks, leaving the monastery in debt. Rievaulx was badly affected bu warfare between Englad and Scotland and was pillaged by the Scotts in 1322.The abbey was dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1538. At that time there were reported to be 72 buildings occupied by an abbot and 21 monks, attended by 102 servants, with an income of £351 a year.