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Cistercian Life:
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QuizThe Cistercian Environment: An overview

Reaping corn
© Bibliotheque Municipal de Dijon
<click to enlarge>
Reaping corn

The Cistercians did much to transform the landscape of Northern England. To prepare the land for farming and free more space for buildings, they embarked upon a programme of land clearance and reclamation; they drained marshland, cleared woodland and converted stagnant pools into running water.

At the heart of the Cistercians’ agricultural and economic policy was the grange-system of farming. This established a series of agricultural centres worked by the lay-brothers, from which the land was cultivated, crops harvested and livestock reared.

Swanley grange
© Cistercians in Yorkshire Project
<click to enlarge>
Swanley grange

The Yorkshire Cistercians were particularly noted for their sheep-farming, which was suited to the uplands and moorlands in the North. It was largely under the Yorkshire Cistercians that wool became the most lucrative cash-crop in Britain.
[Read more about Cistercian farming and granges]

Woodland afforded pasture for the abbey’s livestock, in particular pigs; it also provided a source of timber and roofing materials, fuel and minerals.
[Read more about the importance of woodland]

Every monastic community required a reliable water supply for washing, drinking, cooking and brewing, for liturgical purposes, to power the mills and, not least of all, to remove waste from the site. This could be a highly complex process that involved skilful engineering.
[Read more about water management at Fountains and Byland]

A water mill
© Public Record Office
<click to enlarge>
A water mill

The Cistercians in Yorkshire stood at the forefront of several technological innovations. They were amongst the first to have tanning and fulling-mills, and one of the earliest water-driven hammer forges was built at Kirkstall Abbey.
[Read more about Cistercian industry]