Rievaulx St Mary

Temple Moore's remodelling of Rievaulx's medieval chapel manages to shine even in the shadow of one of Britain's most beautiful ruined abbeys.

St Mary's was formerly Rievaulx Abbey's capella extra portas — its “chapel by the gate”. It is the only outer building of the abbey to have substantially survived. The challenge for Temple Moore and his builder was to achieve an extensive remodelling of the building while remaining faithful to the English church tradition it represents.

Moore's response to this challenge was to add a new chancel and a small steeple, doubling the size of the original chapel, while incorporating as much of the surviving 13th-century fabric as possible. The medieval masonry in the nave and part of a lancet arch at the north end became part of the modern church.

The plans were drawn up by Brotton of Bilsdale, a stonemason and builder who had worked on numerous Temple Moore churches in the North York Moors. Lord Feversham paid for the furniture. At a later date Temple Moore's son-in-law Leslie Moore added the altar, reredos, altar rails and sedilia.

St Mary's is an example of a type of religious building called a slipper chapel. Disappointingly, the name doesn't mean that visitors stopped here to pop on a warm pair of slippers brought by friendly monks! It comes from the word slype, meaning to move — that is, to move from the secular workaday world into the sacred landscape of the abbey.