History and Stories
View of Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Abbey: History and Stories

Since its foundation in the 12th century, Rievaulx Abbey has witnessed the heights of monastic renown and the lows of decline and Reformation, only to be reborn as a subject for Romantic art.

Find out more about the story of Rievaulx Abbey through the years and explore new discoveries being brought to light by the latest historical research.

The Abbey through the centuries

  • History of Rievaulx Abbey

    Discover the history of Rievaulx Abbey, from its foundation in 1132 to its 20th-century preservation.

  • Rievaulx Abbey Collection

    Explore a selection of objects that give a unique insight into the workings of the medieval abbey.

  • Aelred of Rievaulx

    Aelred was abbot of Rievaulx Abbey for 20 years. He was a loving and inspirational father to his monks, who called him ‘our Aelred’

  • A new light on the sacking of the Abbey

    Dr Michael Carter explains the significance of a discovery about one of the darkest chapters in the abbey’s history.

  • The Dissolution

    Discover what happened to the many thousands of monks and nuns whose lives were changed forever when, on the orders of Henry VIII, every abbey and priory in England was closed.

  • How Silent Were Medieval Monasteries?

    To many of us, a visiting the ruin of a monastery or abbey is a peaceful, contemplative experience. But are we right to associate monastic sites with the absence of noise?

  • A Mini Guide to Medieval Monks

    Learn how to tell Carthusians from Cistercians with this handy animated introduction to medieval monastic orders.

  • Buy the Guidebook

    Learn more about the history of Rievaulx Abbey with the official guidebook which includes a tour and history of the site, illustrated with full-colour maps, reconstruction drawings and historical images.

Conservation at Rievaulx Abbey

Take a look behind the scenes as Collections Conservator Caroline Rawson explains the conservation work carried out on the historic collections displayed at Rievaulx Abbey's new museum. Discover the tools of the conservator's trade and the methods used to reveal the detail of these delicate objects.

This project was supported by donations from members and visitors. Discover how you could get involved to help preserve historic places across the country.

Support conservation


Resources for Researchers

  • Research on Rievaulx Abbey

    Rievaulx Abbey has a long history of antiquarian and archaeological research because of the quality of its surviving remains.

  • Description of Rievaulx

    Discover what the architecture of Rievaulx can tell us about the abbey's many phases of building and development.

  • Sources for Rievaulx

    Use this summary of primary and secondary sources to learn more about Rievaulx Abbey's history.

  • Why does Rievaulx Matter?

    Discover why Rievaulx has been considered both architecturally and historically significant since the 12th century.

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