And St. Aelred of Rievaulx Too!


Now that I’ve given, on this website, St. Benet Biscop a hefty portion of the day on his feast day, January 12th is also the feast day of St. Aelred of Rievaulx, the twelfth-century Cistercian abbot of Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire.  (When a friend drove me to Rievaulx from Durham, his GPS insisted we were going to Rivolks.)

St. Aelred is considered one of the “four evangelists” of the twelfth-century Cistercian reform of Benedictine monasticism. A few decades after the 1098 foundation of Citeaux by Sts. Robert de Molesmes, Alberic (a name that has *other* connotations for fans of Wagner), and Stephen Harding (an Englishman who ended up in France not too long after the Norman invasion.  Might there be a connection?), the immense talents of four Cistercian writers inaugurated what is considered the Cistercian Golden Age.  These writers: St. Bernard de Clairvaux, St. Aelred of Rievaulx, Bd. Guerric d’Igny, and William of St. Thierry.  Of these, Martin Thornton’s classic English Spirituality identifies both Aelred and Guerric as much closer to the English spiritual temper and outlook than St. Bernard.  I have to agree.  Aelred seems generally to have been more successful than Bernard at staying home and being a pastoral presence to his community, just as one would have expected of the ideal country vicar.

The photo is from the aforementioned trip to Rievaulx.  It was a day in early April, and the sweater was not nearly enough.  I wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes in a medieval Cistercian monastery.


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