The infirmary complex at Rievaulx stood to the
east of the main cloister. It was built in the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries, making it one of the earliest in Britain.The infirmary
complex essentially functioned as a monastery in miniature. It
was physically set apart from the heart of the monastery, but
connected by passages to the claustral area. Furthermore, it was
on the abbey for provisions, as well as service books and bedding;
once these had been received the infirmary could operate independently.
In the early thirteenth century a monk of Rievaulx was said to have suffered
so greatly from the *mal des ardents that the pain drove him to amputate
his own foot. Fortunately the Virgin, the patron of the Order, came
to his rescue and restored his foot to its former glory.
*Mal des ardents: a streptococcal infection causing inflammation which
raged through France 1128-1129.
[Cited in Cassidy-Welch, Monastic Spaces and their Meanings, p.
Similarly, while the inmates here were removed
from the rest of the community and granted concessions, they were
first and foremost
monks. Accordingly, they were expected to observe the rules
of the Order, to follow the daily routine of conventual life as
as they were able, and they were subject to correction.