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By Linda Lee

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But a dark threatening sky, or wild stormy conditions can greatly enhance the atmosphere at Netley, and rain transforms the local sandstone structure into a glistening wall of colour. Occasionally the site is taken over by the local Shakespeare society, who perform the bard’s classic plays against the dramatic backdrop of the abbey ruins. uk Find exact location using Multimap 62 Rievaulx Abbey he majestic, almost regal, appearance of Rievaulx looming from the depths of a narrow river valley symbolises the power and importance of monasticism in medieval England.

T rom the thirteenth century little history is known, except that following the glorious years of Aelred’s abbacy and the completion of the initial building programme, Rievaulx’s fortunes declined. During the early years of activity the abbey was said to F 63 have supported some 150 monks and upwards of 500 lay brethren. By the end of the fourteenth century these numbers had dwindled drastically, and the community at that time comprised just 15 monks and three lay brothers. There was a brief revival at the end of the fifteenth century, and when the Abbot surrendered the monastery in 1538 there were 21 monks remaining.

The craftsmanship employed in the intricate design work must have been of the highest quality, and it has withstood the test of time admirably. long the eastern edge of the cloister are five splendidly preserved Norman arches leading into the usual arrangement of claustral buildings. The chapter house must have presented a magnificent sight with its twelve bay vaulted ceiling (of which only the slender columns remain), and the array of twin lancet windows with elaborate moulding. Little survives of the south and west ranges, but the small chapel of the infirmary is amazingly wellpreserved.

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