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Rievoulx Abbey and Helmsley Castle

Best class trip ever!

On February 21, I went on a class trip to Rievoulx Abbey and the town of Helmsley. It was for my class called "The Visual Past" where we look at ruins of abbeys and castles in order to see what we can learn from the ruins.

Rievoulx was built in by Walter Espec 1132. It was one of the first Cistercian installations in the North of England and therefore pivitol to spreading the order in England. The Abbey run out of money and slowly the dissolution began. In the end, only a few monks lived there. This is what it looks like today:


This is the chapel. The area behind me is the holiest place in the Abbey. It would have been blocked off for anyone but monks. (Bit of a superiority complex if you ask me)

You can still see the fireplaces!

Behind the wall in the back would have been the toliets. Even Monks had to dispose of waste ;)


This is the basement of what would have been the dining room. I am standing on what would have been the first level. This would have been my favorite building if I were a monk which is probably why I would make a terrible monk :P . This is also the building that ultimately led to the downfall of the abbey because it cost too much to build and left it bankrupt.

This is the drainage system for the abbey

So basically, Rievoulx is absolutely stimulating for the imagination. It is beautiful, but it is also amazing to look at what would have been. Today it may seem like just pleasant scenery, but you can see the remains of a lifestyle from hundreds of years ago.

We had the afternoon in Helmsley and my friend, Makenzie, and I went to the castle. It is also now in ruins but absolutely scenic!


Here you can see the remnants of where a staircase would have been- that lighter stone zig-zag.

The moat! This castle was designed to be defended.

Another defense: the Southern gate with a bridge across the moat.

This is the view of the tower from the house. It is, apparently, symbolic because you can see the defense tower and below and see the town of Helmsely(well you could if I took a better picture) so it affirms the dominance of the castle.

Posted by Kateogan 07:36 Archived in England Tagged bridges history beautiful castle monks scenic abbey sunshine rievoulx helmsley Comments (0)


a day trip the the quaint town on a hill

The first class excursion the class went to was Durham, about an hour north of York. Once we got off the train, we were immediately greeted with a high view of the city, and it was unbelievable:

We walked through town to the cathedral and castle which can be seen in the picture from the train station. We turned the corner and saw the cathedral. Needless to say, we were pretty awestruck.


What makes this beautiful building even more beautiful is it's complicated history. (Can you believe that coming from me :P) It was originally built around the shrine to Saint Cuthburt. His remains are actually still in the church with a shrine for prayer and reflection. His bones were thrown into the yard during Henry VIII's sacking but eventually were put back into a more modest grave. Behind the grave is an intricate insert with lots of empty spaces- it looked like a huge multi-faceted picture frame. There were originally gold statues in there, but they were removed and buried before Henry VIII could get them....and never found. So somewhere there is lots of gold statues buried.

(We are entering the section where all pictures taken were taken illegaly because no photography was allowed in the cathedral or the castle. Therefore they are weird angles and poorly exposed.)


The other end held the tomb of the Venerable Bede, who was a monk, theologian, historian, and general academic in the medieval times. It also is what used to be the women's chapel because women were not allowed too close to a place so holy such as the grave of St. Cuthbert. There are so many other fascinating and great things in the Cathedral but I can't talk about everything :)

The next place we visited was Durham Castle. This castle is, once again, quite scenic


My favorite place in the castle was the old Norman Chapel. This chapel is uniquely preserved in the Norman style because it was closed off for a few hundred years. It has an Anglo-Saxon floor(pictured left), which is not normal for Norman chapel and quite possibly because the all the Norman masons were tied up with the Cathedral. It also has carvings of a mermaid and The Green Man, which is a pagan symbol. This is possibly because they were trying to incorporate aspects of the pagan religion to Christianity to make it more digestible to the pagans.
[Sorry for the poor angles. I was trying to sneak a picture without being caught]

Again there were lots of cool things in the castle. Unfortunately, I was less fortunate in sneaking pictures of these. One interesting feature is the second chapel built by Bishop Tunstall. It was built during the reign of Henry VIII and the religious turmoil. He built it to satisfy the Catholics but built it modestly to satisfy the Protestants. He spent his life converting between the two depending who was the ruler at the time, ultimately dying in the Tower of London because he wanted to die a Catholic even though Elizabeth I was Protestant.

I suppose the best way to end this post would be the pretty scenic views of Durham as a whole.


Posted by Kateogan 13:24 Archived in England Tagged sunset england cathedral castle scenic durham cuthbert Comments (0)

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