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Fountains Abbey: Looking north at the Chapel of the Nine Altars
The eastern transept of the abbey church, completed ca. 1247.
Fountains Abbey was founded in 1132 following a dispute at St. Mary's Abbey in York. Thirteen exiled Benedictine monks were supplied with a site in the valley of the River Skell and joined the Cistercian order in 1135. The land was well watered, both by the River Skell and by six springs, hence the name St. Mary of the Springs, latinized to 'de Fontibus'. Along with Rievaulx, it was the most important Cistercian abbey in northern England and was given an extensive library by Hugh, Dean of York in 1134. The nave and 11 bays exemplify severe Cistercian style ("pointed Romanesque"), but Chapel of Nine Altars is more delicate. Together with Studley Royal Water Garden, the abbey forms an 822 acre World Heritage site (since 1987) and National Trust site (since 1983). It is the largest monastic ruin in Britain.