Byland Abbey

Byland Abbey

Location: Ryedale, North Yorkshire Map

Tel. 01347 868614

Open: Apr- Jul & Sep: Thu- Mon; Aug: daily


Description of the Byland Abbey

Byland Abbey Aerial View 

Byland Abbey is a medieval Roman Catholic monastery of Savigniac- Cistercian order situated in the town of Ryedale, North Yorkshire in United Kingdom.  Byland Abbey was established in 1155. Monks and laymen alike cleared marshy lands to start a construction of a beautiful cathedral and surrounding buildings. In 1322 it was besieged and taken by the Scottish troops after the battle of Shaws Moor. In 1538 Henry VIII cut all ties with Rome and proclaimed himself as a head of a church thus starting a Reformation in England. He closed monasteries and took away their possessions. Byland Abbey did not escape this fate. It was closed on 30 November, monks were dispersed and remaining structures were used by the local farmers as a source of stone for construction of the new buildings in the area. The land was transferred to Sir William Pickering.

If you decide to walk in the direction of the Rievaulx Abbey you might notice a dry river creek. It was left here after monk of Byland and Rievaulx Abbeys reached an agreement in their dispute over monastery's possessions. River Rye was diverted to become a new border between the two historic religious complexes.



The monastery was founded at Calder in 1135 as a subsidiary of Furness Abbey, later moved to Old Byland where it joined the Cistercian Order with the Savigny Congregation in 1147 and moved to its present location in 1177. At the same time, Byland Abbey was one of the largest spiritual centers in the region, along with Fountains Abbey and Rievaulx Abbey. The monks lived mainly from sheep farming and from the wool produced from it. The monastery was dissolved under the reign of Henry VIII. Today only impressive ruins remain.

In the 12th century, the English Bishop Wimund, who had previously worked as a pirate, was imprisoned here. In 1322 the Battle of Byland took place near the abbey between the English and the Scots.


Buildings and facilities

Abbey church
Like the neighboring Cistercian abbeys, the primitive church was replaced by a large abbey at the beginning of the 13th century.

The building is over 100 meters long and side aisles completely enclose the nave, the transept and the choir.

The nave, devoid of its large arcades, ends in a deep and rectangular choir with a flat apse, on the wall of which are arranged 5 chapels.

The transept accommodates 2 side chapels in each of its transepts and retains, at its transept and in the southern transept, beautiful remains of glazed terracotta tile flooring.

The facade is the major element of the abbey. It has a trefoil portal with four arches falling on small columns, framed by a semicircular door opening in the 2 side aisles. It is surmounted, first by three tall and narrow windows in tiers-point, then by a large rose window, of the same width as that of the facade between the buttresses, of which only the lower part remains.

Other buildings
In the chapter house, two columns and bases, which received the fallout from the vault, are still in place, like part of the walls of the refectory and the heating room.

The lane of the lay brothers is also visible, where 35 niches are arranged, perhaps intended for the storage of the work clothes of the lay brothers before going to the office