Sunday, 17 April 2011
The Cellarium, Fountains Abbey
This is probably one the most famous images of Fountains Abbey and one of the most stunning parts of the ruins. This long span of vaulting, incredibly, survived intact when the Abbey was dissolved and began to be plundered for its stone. It formed the roof of the Cellarium, the area where the monks ate, slept and socialised - though, when the monastery was in use, the area would have been partitioned and not the long, open space we see today.
The monastery was founded in 1132 and, soon after, was admitted to the Cistercian order, an austere and devout order that originated in France. A large lay brotherhood, working alongside the monks, cared for the buildings and farmed sheep and soon the Abbey was wealthy and influential. It seems, however, that the enterprise grew too large for its monastic roots and economic collapse in the 14th century saw the monastery decline and some of its lands sold off. A brief period of revival was cut short in 1539 by King Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries (when he made himself the head of the Church of England and severed ties with the Roman Catholic Church). In 1540 the estate was sold to Sir Richard Gresham and became the property of a succession of wealthy families, who built Fountains Hall and landscaped the gardens.