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Fountains Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery. It is also one of the largest Cistercian houses in England and the best example of destruction caused by Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536-40) when Henry sold all the buildings and land that belonged to the Catholic monasteries. The King had broken away from the Catholic church in 1534 and made himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England. The Abbey is situated near Ripon in north-east England.
The largest monastic ruin, was founded in 1132 by Benedictine monks. Within three years, the little settlement at Fountains had been admitted to the austere Cistercian Order. One of the most important developments at Fountains Abbey was the introduction of the Cistercian system of lay brothers. It was due to the lay brothers that Fountains attained its great wealth and economic importance. By the mid thirteenth century Fountains had become one of the wealthiest religious houses in England.
The abbey operated for over 400 years, until 1539. The Abbey buildings and over 500 acres (2 km²) of land were then sold by the Crown, on 1 October 1540.
Fountains Abbey is a truly breathtaking place to visit. It is set in the naturally beautiful Skell valley.
Visitors approach Fountains Abbey from the west, which provides a fine vista across the Abbey Green to the abbey church and west range. The small River Skell runs picturesquely along the right side of the site; it provided an important water source to the abbey. A variety of monastery buildings cluster around the south side of the church. Behind the abbey to the east lie the extensive grounds of Studley Royal Park.
Construction on the abbey church began in 1135. Now carpeted with grass and open to the sky, this ruined medieval church is among the most atmospheric sights in England. This place is also famous for its 18th-century landscape garden of Studley Royal, with several ponds, ornamental monuments and carefully designed vistas.
Many people visit the ruins, which have been well preserved in attractive countryside. They were made a World Heritage Site in 1986.