Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo


Thurston, Archbishop of York, was very anxious to have a monastery of the newly founded and fervent order of Cistercians in his diocese ; and so, at his invitation, St. Bernard of Clairvaux sent a colony of his monks, under the leadership of Abbot William, to make the desired foundation. After some delay Walter Espec became their founder and chief benefactor, presenting them with a suitable estate, situated in a wild and lonely spot, in the valley of the rivulet Rie (from whence the abbey derived its name), and surrounded by precipitous hills, in Blakemore, near Helmesley. The community took possession of the ground in 1131, and began the foundation, the first of their order in Yorkshire. The church and abbey, as is the case with all monasteries of the order, were dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. At first their land being crude and uncultivated, they suffered much until, after a number of years, their first benefactor again came to their assistance and, later on, joined their community. Their land, also, through their incessant labours, eventually became productive, so that, with more adequate means of subsistence, they were able to devote their energies to the completion of church and monastic buildings, though these were finished only after a great lapse of time, on account of their isolation and the fact that the monastery was never wealthy. The constructions were carried on section by section, permanent edifices succeeding those that were temporary after long intervals. The final buildings, however, as attested by the magnificent, though melancholy, ruins yet remaining, were completed on a grand scale.

Within a very few years after its foundation the community numbered three hundred members, and was by far the most celebrated monastery in England ; many others sprang from it, the most important of them being Melrose, the first Cistecian monastery built in Scotland. Rievaulx early became a billiant centre of learning and holiness ; chief amongst its lights shone St. Ælred, its third abbot (1147-67), who from his sweetness of character and depth of learning was called Bernardo prope par . He had been, before his entrance into the cloister, a most dear friend and companion of St. David, King of Scotland. History gives us but scant details of the later life at Rievaulx. At the time of its suppression and confiscation by Henry VIII the abbot, Rowland Blyton, with twenty-three religious composed its community. The estates of this ancient abbey are now in the possession of the Duncombe family.

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:1-6
1 I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you therefore to lead a life worthy ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 [Psalm Of David] To Yahweh belong the earth and all it contains, the ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:54-59
54 He said again to the crowds, 'When you see a cloud looming up in the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 21st, 2016 Image

St. Hilarion
October 21: Abbot and disciple of St. Anthony the Great, ... Read More