Rievaulx Abbey was founded in 1132 by twelve monks from Clairvaux Abbey as a mission centre 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.
The remote location was ideal for the Cistercians, whose desire was to follow a strict life of prayer and self-sufficiency with as little contact as possible with the outside world. The patron, Walter Espec, settled another new Cistercian community, founding Wardon Abbey, Bedfordshire, on one of his inherited estates, again on unprofitable wasteland,
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