Discovery of over 500 Cistercian monks’ graves

Archaeologists conducting prospection with Ground Penetrating Radar at Fountains Abbey, North England, were able to discover the graves of more than 500 Cistercian monks and lay brothers.

GPR measurement results (by National Trust/PA)
GPR measurement results (by National Trust/PA)

Experts from the University of Bradford, Geoscan Research and Mala Geoscience were employed by the National Trust to conduct complex research of the World Heritage Site that existed from the early 12th century to closure in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Non-invasive prospection identified not only the location of the cemetery, but also the formation of the graves. This data  suggest that the monastic community believed in literal or corporeal resurrection. Analysis of the images shows multiple burials in each grave cut, with up to four in some cases, suggesting there could be up to 2000 bodies in total. The graves are laid out in regular, curving rows running East from the abbey church, within an area measuring approximately 80 metres by 60 metres. The regular organisation of the graves and their “bunk-bed” structure (where the bodies were separated by stone partitions within the same grave) indicate the importance given to keeping the remains separate from later burials. Although the existence of the cemetery was known, its exact location or scale of the cemetery until now were not.

(after Stray FM, The Guardian & National Trust/PA)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.