The twelve ghost stories written by a monk at Byland Abbey, North Yorkshire, around 1400 CE have received extensive comment by scholars of medieval ghost stories and the supernatural. Public interpretation of the site, which has been in State care since 1921, has largely focused on the acknowledged importance of Byland's buildings in the development of Cistercian architecture in the British Isles in the late twelfth century. With a strong architectural focus, Byland's English Heritage guidebook makes no mention of the stories or indeed medieval beliefs about death, the afterlife, and the supernatural. This article aims to demonstrate that the ghost stories, together with the architectural, artifactual, and documentary evidence pertaining to monastic beliefs and observance about death, burial, and spiritual salvation, are in fact key to the interpretation of Byland—indeed, to all medieval monasteries—for twenty-first-century visitors.

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