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His only brother gone to sea,
cheeks and bounding feet
WITHIN a distance of three miles westward from Leeds is the village of Kirkstall, through which runs the river Aire. This village is chiefly remarkable, on account of the ruins of the ancient Abbey of Kirkstall.
Among the monastic ruins in the north of England, Kirkstall Abbey holds a distinguished rank ; being next in importance to Bolton Abbey and Fountain's Abbey. It is now seven hundred years since the abbey was built. Sir Henry de Lacey was its founder. He, when he had lost his health, made a vow, that if he should regain his health, he would build an abbey to the honour of the Virgin Mary. Accordingly, when he had recovered his health, he proceeded with the erection of Kirkstall Abbey. When it was fit for occupation, it was taken possession of by monks of the Cistercian Order, to whom it was presented by Sir Henry de Lacy.
The Order of the Cistercian Monks was originated by a Benedictine monk of the name of Robert, a member of a noble family, who was of opinion that reformation was required in the conduct which was then allowed to the Monastic Orders ; and he, therefore, resolved to found a new order, which should be governed by stricter rules than those which were observed by the existing orders. Hence, in the year 1098, he with twenty other monks retired to a lonely district called Cistercium, not far from Dijon, in France, and established a society of monks, over which Robert presided ; until, by an order from the Pope, he removed to preside over the monastery of Mosleme, to which he formerly belonged. The new monastery was, however continued, and the new order of monks received a great accession in the year 1113, by the admission of Bernard and about thirty of his companions into the Monastery of Cistericium—sometimes called the Monastery of Citeaux.
Bernard was a descendent from a very respectable family, and his mother, according to the knowledge which she possessed, was a pious woman, and diligently inculcated religious principles into the minds of her children. Bernard subjected himself to a course of great self-denial, and at the early age of 25 years become the chief of the monastery of the Cistercians. From that time, many men of all ranks and stations flocked to this monastery, which soon acquired so high a repute for the sanctity of its members, that numerous applications were soon made for monks of this order, to be sent to establish new monasteries, or to reform old ones, in various parts of France, Italy, Spain, Germany, England, and other countries.
Fifty years after the commencement of the Order of the Cistercians, it possessed five hundred abbeys, or establishments, and in another fifty years the abbeys possessed by this order of monks had increased to one thousand eight hundred. The Cistercians at first wore a black habit or cloak; but this was changed for a white habit; and it was said that the Virgin Mary had given a white habit to the second prior of the abbey. A Roman Catholic writer gives the following account of the Cistercians. He says, “ The whole Church of Christ was full of the high reputation and opinion of their sanctity, as it were with the odour of some divine balsam, and that there was no country or province wherein this vine, loaded with blessings, had not spread forth its branches. They neither wore skins nor shirts, nor ever eat flesh except in sickness, and abstained from fish, eggs, milk, and cheese ; they lay upon straw beds, in their tunics and cowls; they rose at midniglit, and sang praises to God till break of day; they spent the day in labour, reading, and prayer; and in all their exercises they observed a strict silence, and exercised extraordinary hospitality and charity towards the poor.”
Kirkstall Abbey was built about fifty years after the establishment of the Cistercian order of monks; and Sir Henry de Lacey, having heard of the reputed superior sanctity of the Cistercians, granted to them the possession of the beautiful abbey which he had erected, and here the monks continued to reside for nearly four hundred years.
Ancient records testify, that in the year 1301 the monks at Kirkstall Abbey had 216 oxen, 160 cows, 152 yearlings and bullocks, 90 calves, and 4000 sheep and lambs; and the debts of the establishment amounted to 1601. It is probable that the monks were not then so abstemious as their predecessors of the Cistercian order had been ; but that, like the other orders of monks, they had become more disposed to indulge themselves in the use of the earthly good things which they possessed.
In the reign of king Henry the eighth, all the monasteries were broken up by order of the king, who took possession of the property belonging to those establishments. Six hundred and ten monasteries were broken up during the reign of this king, and their revenues, which amounted, we are told, to more than one hundred and sixty-one thousand pounds a-year, were seized by the king. To reconcile the country to these acts of injustice, the monks were represented as monsters of iniquity, and the riches taken from them, it was said, would render it not needful for the king to require the payment of taxes. We have no doubt that in many of the monasteries great crimes were committed; but they were not all alike sinks of iniquity. King Henry the eighth was a very wicked man, and cared not by what means he obtained his purposes.
a lewd, rapacious tyrant; and, although the king put down the power of the pope in England, and made himself the head of the Protestant Church in this country, it was not because the king cared anything about the errors of popery, but to have his revenge on the pope, who had opposed the king as to his putting away one of his wives and marrying another.
When Kirkstall Abbey was suppressed, it possessed property which produced annually several hundreds of pounds. Dugdale says, 3291. 2s. 11d. a-year; but Speed says, the abbey had endowments which amounted to 5121. 138. 4d. a-year. The abbey and its site were granted by the king to Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, in exchange for other land. In the reign of Edward the sixth, the royal licence was granted to the archbishop to convey the abbey and its land to trustees for the use of one of the sons of the archbishop, and his heirs. The estate afterwards passed into the possession of other families ; and was recently the property of the earl of Cardigan, to whom, for anything we know to the contrary, it now belongs.
Soon after the monks were dispossessed of the abbey, it became subject to the ruthless hands of destroyers. The lead from the roofs, the bells, and everything valuable, that could be easily removed, were taken away. Part of the walls of the building were pulled down, and the stones were carted away to be used in the erecting of other buildings. Yet a large portion of the walls of the stately abbey are yet standing, finely covered, in many parts, with the creeping ivy. In the year 1779 part of the tower of the abbey fell; it is said that its great weight had crushed one of the columns which had supported the tower. The remains of the abbey occupy a large space, and are said to measure, from north to south, three hundred and forty feet; and, from east to west, four hundred and forty-five feet. Roman coins have frequently been dug up at Corkbridge, a village two miles north of Kirkstall Abbey, and on a moor, in the neighbourhood, traces of an ancient