This is the view of the interior of the ruined Cistercian abbey in Tintern in Wales, United Kingdom. This abbey was founded in 1131 and was only the second Cistercian monastery in the whole of Britain and the first one in Wales. In the medieval period Cistercian monks were often given abandoned or uncultivated land from secular benefactors so that they could make it fertile and profitable with their good knowledge of irrigation systems, water channels and mill constructions and industry. The types of land often offered to the monastic order included swamps, marshes or arid terrains and borderlands devastated by war. Tintern was one such marshy borderland located in the Welsh Marches between the kingdom of England and Wales. The Cistercian monks quickly transformed the once depopulated wetlands into a prosperous centre of agriculture and industry as well as religion and learning. Monasticism flourished here for more than 400 years until the abbey was destroyed and the monks expelled during the dissolution of monasteries when England cut its religious ties with Rome and the rest of Europe. After that, Tintern was largely forgotten, becoming the abandoned land it once was. Even after they were gone however, the Cistercian managed to contribute to the beauty of this land. In the 18th C. the ruins of their monastery attracted the attention of Romantic travelers and artists, and eventually became famous as one of the most popular tourist locations in Wales. Thus, Tintern was transformed once again as one of the most picturesque countryside locations in Wales.
The way this church looks today has little to do with its medieval appearance, originally the nave was segregated by walls and screens which separated its different parts for the use of different groups of monks. These walls were demolished to make the church more attractive to visitors but you can still see their remaining fragments at the edges of the columns. Some writers complain that the ruin resembles more a type of a fairytale Disneyland than a medieval abbey but I think that with a bit of good will, the modern beauty of Tintern Abbey can still be seen as a contribution of medieval monks who, after all, managed to transform this borderland location into a beautiful corner of Wales even after they were expelled from it during the Renaissance.
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