ashwednesday: medieval tapestry (Tapestry desire)
Yesterday I took a trip to the beautiful Rievaulx Abbey, founded in 1132 by St Bernard of Clairvaux. The abbey was founded by a small group of Cistercian monks, an austere order that wished to closely follow the Rule of St Benedict. The remote location made an ideal situation for monks who wished to live a simple life. However, over the next century the abbey became one of the most prosperous in England, and had a population of 650 monks and lay brothers. Unfortunately, at the end of the 13th century, an outbreak of sheep scab meant that the abbey became bankrupt, as much of its wealth was invested in its sheep flocks (14 000 sheep!). Its decline began at this point, which was not aided by raids from Scotland and the ravages of the Black Death, which reduced the population of the abbey to a handful of monks. Because of this, the rules of the order were relaxed - the monastery could not really be self sufficient, and like other monasteries the lands surrounding it were leased out.

Henry VIII dissolved the monastery in 1538. As well as being stripped of its valuables, I've just come across a fascinating claim that the advanced blast furnace used by the monks of the abbey may have actually sped up the coming of the Industrial Revolution, so the Dissolution may have put a stop to that as well! Since I'm not an archaeologist, and certainly not one who specialises in metal, I have no idea if this is just a crazy theory. However, some archaeometallurgists had some crazy fun doing iron smelting experiments at Rievaulx, which you can read about here! It's high on picture content and relatively low on terminology the layman won't understand. This report came out in 2002, and I'm not sure what the upshot of all this has been... If anyone knows, do let me know. I could go on an actual academic hunt for articles on this, of which I'm sure there are many, but I don't think I have time right now...

So, instead enjoy some pretentious photography of a beautiful location.


ashwednesday: ocean (Default)

January 2013

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