Our day started out pretty early by getting on a minibus at 9 am. We traveled to four different places. Mount Grace Priory, Rievaulx Abbey, Helmsley Castle and Pickering Castle. Each of these historical sites, Mount Grace Priory, Rievaulx Abbey, Helmsley Castle and Pickering Castle had individual elements that made them stand out, but Rievaulx Abby and Pickering Castle really stood out to me. The Rievaulx Abbey caught my attention first because of the size. Even though the site is now in ruins, it is still huge, and a lot of the cathedral was still standing even though it was built in 1132 and disestablished by Henry VIII of England in 1538. The Rievaulx Abbey was also one of the wealthiest of its time. The Rievaulx Abbey was founded by 12 Cistercian monks that wanted to colonize northern England and Scotland. Flash forward to when the Rievaulx Abbey was in its prime, it housed over 140 monks. The location was chosen for the Cistercians to follow their strict life of prayer and self reliance; a big part of this was having little to almost no contact with the outside world. Sarah also explained that there are still 15 of the 92 acres that are accessible but less than half of the 72 buildings are still standing today. There was something surreal about being in the cathedral to me. Something medieval from the 1100’s was still standing proudly on its own today, it’s truly amazing. I also found the history of self torture very interesting. Apparently the monks would punish themselves for having impure thoughts. A few of the torture methods included whipping themselves and wearing a rawhide shirt under their clothes that would tear open their skin. I found this particularly interesting because the monks live a peaceful and routine life, so I do not know what they need to punish themselves for.
Pickering Castle was very different from the castles we have seen so far, because it is a lot of ruins. Because of this it first came off as a more understated castle. The castle was originally a timber and motte and bailey castle. The original castle was built by the Normans in 1069-1070. Even though the castle is in ruins, the ruins are well preserved because Pickering Castle is one of the few castles that was not hugely impacted by the War of the Roses and the English Civil War in the 17 century.
I was particularly intrigued by the towers at Pickering Castle. The towers are the older medieval style, meaning they are square and not cylindrical. When talking to the employee at Pickering Castle he said that the castle was used by people of nobility often, and it was used as a hunting lodge. I immediately saw the arrow slits differently, because of their size, these were most likely used for weapons a lot, but for hunting. Even though there is not a lot of Pickering Castle left that is still standing, I was able to envision the layout of the castle because of what was left.