Byland was founded as a Savigniac house in 1134, but was brought within the Cistercian family following the absorption of the Savigniac Congregation in 1147. By the late twelfth century Byland, Fountains and Rievaulx were described as 'the three shining lights of the North’ .
The community of Byland started as a colony of monks sent from Furness, to Calder, Cumberland, in 1134, but moved to several locations before finally settling at the present site, near the village of Coxwold. Most of the buildings were complete upon the monks’ arrival and the abbey church was one of the largest and most impressive in Cistercian Europe. Once settled the community prospered and was especially renowned for sheep-rearing and the export of wool.
Today, the abbey remains include one of the largest cloisters in England, which was glazed in the fifteenth century to keep out the cold. Excavation has recovered stunning thirteenth-century floor tiles in the church, as well as the only stone lecturn base in England. Byland’s altar is now at Ampleforth Abbey.