This weekend I went up to Scotland with all of the other Cambridge summer school students. We are driving there in a bus and we stopped at Fountains Abbey. I wasn’t sure what to expect when we stopped because we had driven a ways off he freeway into a more rural part of England. After we all piled out of the bus with our lunches in hand we walked to the visitor’s center. At that point I was a little disappointed because all I saw was a stone tower in the far distance. When I found out that we could walk down among the ruins, I was more excited.
I went on a tour of the abbey to get a sense of its history. It was founded in 1132 when 13 monks came to this spot. The ruins were incredible and I really wish I could have seen the buildings when they were in their prime. I won’t spend too much time describing them because I think the pictures speak for themselves.
The big arched window areas used to hold rose windows, which are a symbol of Mary. They must have been incredible.
This whole area and the story that he tour guide told reminded me of the book Pillars of the Earth. If you haven’t read it, the book is a great description of the huge project of building and sustaining an abbey in the middle ages. Fountains Abbey was very rich because land was donated to them by the families of the men who became monks. They also were a huge player in wool trading and made much of their opperational money that way.
I was only able to go to part of the tour, so I don’t know any of the more recent history of the abbey. Here is a good website that tells more about the order that founded it: http://cistercians.shef.ac.uk/fountains/
I loved visiting Scotland, and I will post a few more posts about the other things I did there. Watch for those over the next few days. 🙂