For them everything is fixed by weight, measure
A pound of bread, a pint of drink, two dishes of cabbage and beans.
If they sup, the remnants of their former meal are dished up again
except that, instead of the two cooked dishes, fresh vegetables,
they are to be had, are served.(1)
[Walter Daniel, Life of Aelred.]
The first stone refectory at Rievaulx
dates from the mid-twelfth century, and lay parallel to the cloister, on an
east/west axis. At the end of the twelfth
century the refectory was completely rebuilt with the new building running
along a north/south axis. This meant that the kitchen could now
be accommodated in
the southern range and accessed directly from the cloister.
The sheer size
of the new refectory was impressive: it stood over fifteen metres
high and extended
over fifteen metres in length; on account of the terracing of the site, the
building was raised with cellarage below. The interior was equally
striking for the walls
were lime-washed light pink with a masonry pattern traced in red and a tiled
floor. Indeed, Rievaulx’s new refectory was one of the finest in the
country, but it is likely that the cost of its construction, which involved
and paying outside workers, was a major factor contributing to the community’s
debt in the late twelfth century.(2)
A team from Bradford University is conducting the first archaeological
dig at Rievaulx for over eighty years. The team is excavating the refectory
to find remains of charcoal which, it is thought, was stored here to
supply the blast furnace that was built here following the dissolution
of the abbey. The team believes that the sixteenth-century monks of
Rievaulx were at the forefront of the metal industry and on the eve
of the Dissolution were on the verge of developing blast-furnace technology.
Their progress, however, was terminated by the dissolution of the abbey
in December 1538, but a blast furnace was built on the site 1570-c.