28th December 1150.
In medieval times all the abbots of Cistercian monasteries were expected to gather yearly at Citeaux around the time of Holy Cross Day.
Today in 1150 the Earl of Albermarle and 4th Lord of Holderness, the founder of the Cistercian, Meux Abbey near Beverley, Yorkshire, sent to Fountains Abbey for thirteen Bretheren.
The first Cistercian presence in England was established by William Gifford, Bishop of Winchester in 1128 at Waverley Abbey on the River Wey in West Surrey and over the next thirty years it was to be joined by forty-nine other Houses including Rievaulx, Fountains (Yorkshire), Melrose (Scotland) and Vale Crucis (North Wales).
The wilds of the Yorkshire Wolds were to become the home for many Cistercian monasteries, apart from Rievaulx, with Byland, Fountains, Jervaulx, and Roche near Maltby with Kirkstall one of the best examples of a complete Cistercian House found today.
For a hundred years to the first quarter of the 13th century, Cistercians replaced Cluny as the most powerful Religious Order, having its chief religious influence in western Europe.
Cistercians wishing to return to the literal observance St. Benedict, looked for isolation away from worldly ‘corruption’, cleared woodland, drained marshes for arable farming and sheep rearing, however in their search for isolation many of the locals were dispossessed.
However Cistercians power declined as Mendicant Orders, preaching and begging, spread into Ireland and Wales, and the primitive monachism was found increasingly difficult to maintain. Agriculture became more commercial with all that association and the demands of austerity softened.
This relaxation of their Rule also was more detrimental than with the Benedictines, who though insisting on self-denial never did go for for austerity. Then problems of looking after hundreds of monasteries became an administrative burden and with the best will in the world, fervour eventually runs out of steam.
(1) 14th September.
tate.org.uk/Fountains Abbey, JMW Turner.