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New Altar for Rievaulx Abbey

Archbishop at Rievaulx. Photo courtesy of Tony Bartholomew

Wednesday 27th May 2015

On Thursday 4th June, a new altar will be unveiled at Rievaulx Abbey. The building of the new altar was initiated and funded by a member of All Saints’ church, Helmsley.


The altar is built from a sandstone base with the original altar stone, and the stone is left deliberately simple and unadorned to show a distinction between original and new stonework.  The altar was made by Historic Property Restoration and Skillington Workshop, Conservators, based on the designs of the existing altars in the side aisles of the nave at Rievaulx.

The Revd Tim Robinson, vicar of All Saints’ Helmsley, said, “A member of our congregation, Chris Bryant, now sadly deceased, came up with the idea and much of the funding to raise what is probably the Misa or foundation stone which stands in the place of the high altar of Rievaulx Abbey. The Abbey was a hugely important centre of Christian life and ministry, but since the dissolution of the monasteries there hasn’t been an altar here for over 475 years. We are very grateful to English Heritage for building the new altar, and putting the heart of Christian worship back in the Abbey.”

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu said: “I would also like to thank the generous donor who donated £10,000, who wishes to remain anonymous, for their generosity in making the restoration of this new altar possible. Thank you very much”.

At 7pm on Thursday 4th June, the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Whitby, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Middlesbrough, the Prior of Ampleforth, and the Chair of the Methodist District of York and Hull, will dedicate the newly built up high altar at Rievaulx Abbey, and the Archbishop of York will celebrate the Eucharist for the first time at this altar.

The Rt Revd Paul Ferguson, the Bishop of Whitby said, “The restoration of the altar to Rievaulx Abbey is enormously important, and I’m delighted that representatives from so many Christian denominations will be there to dedicate the altar.  I hope that the altar’s presence reminds Rievaulx’s visitors that the Abbey was built as the home of a worshipping community of monks.  Although the community has gone and the buildings have suffered, God’s church carries on its work and witness all these centuries later.”

The service to dedicate the altar is 7pm on Thursday 4th June, and all are welcome to attend.  The grounds are open for the service from 6pm.  Chairs will not be provided, so please do bring your own seating or rugs. Unfortunately there are few toilets and there is limited access for people with disabilities.  If you would like to bring a group, please email with the numbers in your group.

 Notes to Editors:

There will be a press call to unveil the altar at 10am on Thursday 4th June at Rievaulx Abbey, with the Rt Revd Paul Ferguson (Bishop of Whitby), the Revd Tim Robinson (Vicar of Helmsley), and members of Chris Bryant’s family. To attend, please contact Eleanor Course at tel. 01904 699530 

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