Rievaulx Abbey is England’s most beautiful ruin. Deliberately built in a remote valley by Cistercian monks, it was originally a virtually self-sufficient community.
Like 839 other monasteries, friaries and nunneries, Rievaulx was suppressed by Henry VIII in the 1530s, but its remote position meant that much of its stonework still stands. It is easy to forget what a big role monasteries played in medieval society, and the Cistercian houses of Yorkshire were responsible for developing a style of building with pointed arches that we call Gothic.
This spread to become the dominant architectural style of Britain for 300 years.