Thursday, 18th May, 2023

It was a big day again today! We visited a total of four abbeys/priories. After breakfast, our first stop was Kirkham Priory. It was founded in 1120s and lasted until 8th December 1539 when it was surrendered to the forces of Henry VIII.

This is the Gatehouse (built about 1330). Local poor people would come here to be given food.

There are several figure sculptures remaining. These are David and Goliath.

A the top is Christ in glory with St Philip and St Bartholomew.

The inside of the Gatehouse

The only remaining part of the church, a window at the east end.

The vaulted outer parlour

These two arched recesses were part of the laver where the canons washed their hands before entering the Refectory.

This curving structure was the main drain which emptied into the River Derwent!

Another view of the outer parlour

Detail of above

We were not sure what this bird and its mate were doing here. They kept leaving and returning to the same spot on the front of the Gatehouse. Perhaps they were building a nest?

It is very peaceful at Kirkham Priory.

The second stop for the day was Ampleforth Abbey. On the way, we were very near Castle Howard, actually passing through part of the estate.

Ampleforth Abbey is still functioning as a Roman Catholic monastery and a school. It was begun in the 1800s. The church was rebuilt three times, the last in the 1920s. We were able to visit only the church.

The Assumption of Mary

Non-Figurative Windows in the South Transept

St Martin of Tours and St Bernard of Clairvaux

The Lectern

A representation of the Trinity

There must have been a Service just before we arrived because there were still clouds of incense in the church!

Detail of above - These are organ pipes of the stop "trompette argentea" a very loud reed stop.

Our third abbey was Rievaulx, one of the largest and finest of all the ruined abbeys. It is a remarkable and awe-inspiring place to visit (and the café is good too!).

Some of the more fragile items found during excavations are stored in a small museum within the grounds. This frieze was originally in the infirmary. Two men approach the central windmill, one leading and one following laden mules. The abbey had its own mill, which its tenants were obliged to use. (Monopolies are not a new thing!)

The Lamb of God (Agnus Dei), a symbol of Christ's resurrection, decorated the vault boss of Abbot William's shrine. It was abandoned in the cloister at the Suppression.

Presbytery boss, 13th century. Retaining traces of painted decoration, this comes from the east end of the south aisle above
Aelred's shrine.

The East End of the Church

The east end of the church, from the Quire

The fact that these walls have stood for almost 500 years in a state of ruin is a wonderful testament to the skills of the builders.

Some sections of floor tiling remain.

Even after all these years, some traces of the decorative carving remain.

More floor tiles

The Chapter House

The doorway to the refectory

Stairs to nowhere

Trees in the orchard

The black sheep of the family!

Not far from Rievaulx are the ruins of Byland Abbey. In its heyday it was considered to be one of the great monasteries of the north, alongside Fountains and Rievaulx.

The west front of the church

A wash basin

The entrance from the cloister to the church.

The Chapter House

Day stairs to the dormitory

A few floor tiles remain

Looking through the west door towards the east end

It took longer than expected to get back to York Minster for a Choral Eucharist for Ascension Day so we arrived in the middle of the first hymn. The setting of the Service was Missa Brevis by the still-living composer Joanathan Dove. It is a lively and quite exciting setting with some loud chords followed by pauses in which the sound echoed around the cathedral. It was great! The choir (the girls and adults today) also sang the unaccompanied anthem "Coelos Ascendit Hodie" by Stanford. The organ voluntary was by "Transports de joie" from  "L'Ascension" by Oliver Messiaen. I don't usually enjoy his organ music much but I found that I did on this occasion. The sound of the huge chords echoing around the vast space of the Minster was magical and something that I won't forget. You can hear a performance of it by Richard McVeigh here but, really, it's one of those occasions when it can be said "You had to be there!".

After a meal eaten in haste at McDonald's, we managed to be late for our final event of the day, a performance of Donizetti's opera "The Elixir of Love" by the York Opera. Details of the performance can be found here but I don't know how long the page will remain "up" after the season finishes. "The Elixir of Love" is a comic opera and the plot is really quite silly but the music is very approachable and easy to listen to. The opera was sung in English. I enjoyed the performance!

Once we go "home" I spent a considerable time trying to upload files for yesterday's journal. The interent connection was terrible but I finally managed the task. Of course this meant that this entry for May 18 was not completed until 10:30pm on May 19. I'm not sure how much of May 19 will be completed on May 19!

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