Medieval monks spent Advent in prayer and in work.


The ruins of Rievaulx Abbey in the north of England

Before Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1538, Rievaulx was one of the largest and wealthiest monasteries, with 140 monks and as many as 500 lay brothers in residence.
Throughout the year, a medieval monk’s day was spent largely in manual labor and in prayer. Christmas was no different, although the shorter days made for less time spent doing both.

Christmas at Rievaulx Abbey

In addition to the eight daily offices, which began at 3:30 a.m., there were three Masses on Christmas Day — Midnight Mass, Mass at Dawn, and the Mass of the Day, also known as High Mass. The monks would also hear a sermon in their chapter house in the morning.

Rievaulx Abbey today

The ruins of Rievaulx Abbey are a popular tourist destination and are open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Audio tours are available to accompany one through the ruins. A museum displays artifacts that tell the story of the once-great Abbey.