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Pictures of Byland Abbey

a Abbey in the town of Coxwold, in the county of North Yorkshire

About Byland Abbey

It would be hard to find a more perfect setting for the gracious ruins of centuries old Byland Abbey than this remote valley spot in Ryeland.

The moors are well known both for their beauty and quick change of mood when sunlight quickly disappears to be taken over by storm clouds, the monks who founded the monastery back in the 12th-century must have had a very hard life indeed. Yet here they built a magnificent monastery and a beautiful church.

Quite possibly the order evolved originally from an early Savignic foundation, which was later taken over by the Cistercian order, who history tells us, moved around quite a bit before settling for what was then a densely wooded site. The monks toiled diligently, on completion Byland was one of the three great northern abbey complexes, ranking alongside Fountains Abbey and Rievaulx, which oddly is close by.

Once fully established, life for the religious community was peaceful, save for the odd Scottish raid in the 14th-century. The order of things changed dramatically when Henry VIII decided to divorce Queen Catherine and set up a new church in opposition to Rome. The Abbey was stripped of its assets, the Abbot and monks given pensions and forced to leave.

The buildings we see today are the remnants of centuries of neglect but they continue to show a measure of how perfect this site must have been before it was closed in 1538. Looking at the starkly beautiful mellow walls dappled by a late summer sun, the site takes on an eyrie atmosphere, heightening the senses until you swear you can hear a bell tolling, and monks chanting as they return from their labours in the fields.

It was not until the 1920's that the site was investigated and cleared. During this period many fine relics were discovered, these are on show in the Byland Abbey museum, they include decorative capitals and corbels.

From the ruins there are splendid views over stunning countryside, particularly looking towards the village of Coxwold, were on a clear day it is possible to see the tower of the church.

Byland Abbey is a well preserved site which is in the care of English Heritage.

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