Shape and Development

Previous page: The Confessor's buildings

The cruciform shape of the general plan, first adopted in the tenth century in England, though disguised by subsequent additions, is also still retained, but the original central and western towers, the richly sculptured stone walls, the stained-glass windows, the cloisters, the chapter-house, dormitory, infirmary, etc., have all disappeared, and were first to some extent replaced by Norman work, in its turn swept away to make room for the Early English choir and transepts built by Henry III., and opened in 1269.

The eastern bays of the nave belong to the transition period between Early English and Decorated Gothic, and were added by Edward I.; the west front and window were begun by Richard I. and continued by Henry VII., to whom we also owe the beautiful chapel named after him, considered the finest feature of the interior of the abbey, occupying the site of a chapel to the Virgin erected by Henry III.

The still more modern western towers were added, after designs by Sir Christopher Wren, in the eighteenth century, and unfortunately do not harmonize well with the rest of the building.

Westminster Abbey as it now stands is in the form of a Latin cross, and is 511 ft. long by 203 wide across the transepts.

Next page: Views of the Exterior