Index for Chapters XI-XX

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Chapter XX: Remains

They dreamt not of a perishable home
Who thus could build. Be mine, in hours of fear
Or grovelling thought, to seek a refuge here

MORE of the Abbey of Paisley was left untouched at the Reformation than was the case with the other Scotch Monasteries. The nave is almost as perfect as when it was built. The chapel of St. Mirin is also entire. The northern gable of the transept, with its beautiful window, is untouched ; but the choir has only part of its walls remaining. Both it and the transept are unroofed, and are used as part of the parish burying-ground. The church, taken as a whole, is perhaps as beautiful a specimen of pre-reformation architecture as there is in Scotland. Of the conventual buildings none remain. They were almost all converted after the Reformation into dwelling-houses, and though fragments of the old houses, such as an occasional pillar or arch, are to be found, there is little to remind one of dormitory, parlour, or refectory. The shape of the cloister court has, however, been partially retained, and the cloisters themselves can still to some extent be traced. We give below [1] the measurements of the various parts of the church buildings, which we shall now briefly notice in detail, making free use of the various descriptions of them which have been given by those conversant with the details and technicalities of Gothic architecture. “The first feature that demands attention is the western doorway. It is broad and deep, with large bold mouldings, exhibiting, though the style in general is early English, some remnants of the toothed decorations of the Norman period. On either side of the pointed arch of the doorway there is a narrower archway of the same character, faced with stone. Above the doorway there are three windows, generally speaking of the same period of architecture ; but while the single window in the highest department is of a more decorated character, the two others, occupying the compartment between it and the door, are somewhat remarkable for the breadth and simplicity of the mullions. [2] The window in the highest department to which the above description refers, goes by the name of the “crown window.” Its tracery forms the figure of a crown, and it is not improbable that it may have been designed to commemorate the connection between the Kings of Scotland and the Abbey, and especially the Royal favour shown to Thomas Tervas in enabling him to complete his restoration of the church. [3] The four turrets at each angle of the nave are staircases; the two at the west front are in as good condition in the interior as when erected. The two buttresses in the west front are also staircases from where the turret stair ends, for ascending to the top of the building. The porch of the church is to the north of the building. It has a small room above it, and has a stone bench on each side of the interior.

[1] The Nave is 96 feet in length by 29 feet 3 inches within the piers. The North Aisle 111/2 feet, and the South 10 feet 10 inches. The Piers are each 4 feet, thus making the whole Nave and Aisles 59 feet 7 inches in width—i.e., 96 feet by 59 feet 7 inches.
The Transept is 90 feet 9 inches in length from north to south, by 32 feet within—i.e., 90 feet 9 inches by 32 feet.
The Choir is 123 feet 9 inches in length from east to west, by 32 feet within—i.e., 123 feet 9 inches by 32 feet.
Saint Mirin's Aisle is 48 feet 8 inches by 22 feet 6 inches.
East Gable, 5 feet 6 inches.
Choir, 119 feet 9inches.
Screen, 4 feet.
Transept, 32 feet.
Screen, 4 feet. Nave, 96 feet.
West Gable, 5 feet 6inches
Buttresses outside of West Gable, 3 feet 3 inches
The site of the Tower is 40 feet. square.
The length of West Front over the Flank Towers is 77 feet 6
1/2 inches.
The greatest extent across the Transept, 127 feet 9 inches
North Buttresses, 4 feet 2 inches
Or, 131 feet 11 inches.
South Wall, 4 feet
St. Mirin's Aisle within, 22 feet 3 inches
Screen Wall there, 5 feet
Transept within, 90 feet 9 inches
North Gable, 5 feet 9 inches
Or, 127 feet 9 inches
North Buttresses, 4 feet 2 inches
Or, 131 feet 11 inches
The total length 270, by the greatest breadth 132 feet.
The above actual measurements were taken in 1829, by the late Mr. James Russell, architect, whose friends have courteously given me a copy of them.
[2]The Baronial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Scotland, illustrated, by Robert William Billings, architect—part, Abbey of Paisley.
[3] See ante.