The layout of the cruciform (cross) shaped church is common to the majority of abbeys, cathedrals and churches in the country. Each section of the church has its own
At the west end of the church is the narthex. This is usually a covered porch infront of the main west doors. Once inside the church the
begins. The nave forms the bulk of the church and reaches from the west end to the choir
and the north and
. In a cathedral
the choir usually starts to the east of the transepts but in abbeys
where the buildings are shorter the choir starts further to the west. Further to the east is the presbytery
and finally the high altar
Two classes of monk lived in the abbey. The first known as lay monks or lay brothers were the secular members of the abbey
and were not bound by the stricter monastic rules of prayer. The lay monks did the day-to-day tasks needed to run the abbey. The other
monks were the monastic or choir monks. These monks dedicated their time to prayer and learning. The lay brothers worshiped at the west end of
the nave while the monastic monks worshipped at the east end. A screen, known as the pulpitum, separated the choir from the nave.
Additional altars are located in the transepts
as well as the high altar. These altars were founded by wealthy people or
organisations who wanted prayers said to a favourite saint or for prayers to be said for themselves and their families.
is a rectangular covered walkway built around a central garden or garth
The cloisters were used by the monks for exercise, study and movement under cover between the different parts
of the abbey. Cloisters are usually located on the south side of the nave
where it is naturally sunnier and warmer,
but some abbeys have their cloisters situated to the north due possibly to building constraints.
At the east end of the north cloister leading to the nave is the east processional doorway. This route was used by monks as they moved from the church on important processions. They walked down the north
cloister and into the nave again via the west processional door.
The East Range
The two storey buildings on the east side of the cloister
are an extension of the southern transept
These buildings were used by the choir
monks of the abbey
and the religious leaders of the church.
The upper floor of the east range was main used as a dorter
(dormitory) for the choir monks
. Access to
the upper floor from the church is via the night stairs
that lead from the southern transept of the church.
Using the night stairs the choir monks could walk directly from the sleeping quarters into the church
during the early hours to say prayers. On the ground floor of the east range accessible only from
the south transept is the sacristy
that is used to store the church valuables while they are not in use.
Alongside the sacristy and accessible from the cloister is the library
The Chapter-house is usually located at the centre of the east cloister
wall. This is where the Dean
discuss the running of the abbey. The chapter-house had rich decorations, both inside and on the doorway
leading to it. This reflected the importance of the room to the church and its members. The roof
of the chapter-house was normally vaulted. Around the edge of the room was a series of stone
benches on which the members would sit.
needed a toilet (reredorter) and this is located in the east range. An important factor
when sighting the abbey
was the availability of fresh flowing water
. Water is needed for drinking and
can be used to flush away waste. In some locations the monks built extensive water ducts to channel
the water to where it was required. A channel runs directly under the reredorter
to take away the waste.
The West Range
The west range of the abbey
was run by the secular members of the abbey. Entrance to the abbey was through the west range and this is where visitors would be
greeted and where guest rooms were provided. A monk
known as the cellarer worked in this area and he was responsible for ensuring
the abbey was supplied with all that the abbey required. The cellarer would visit the local towns and
fairs to buy supplies. He would offer a fair price for goods especially to those who needed the money.
The lower floors to the west range was usually where the supplies were stored.
The upper floor of the west range was the usual location of the lay monks dorter
(dormitory or sleeping
quarters). They had a flight of night stairs
leading from their dorter into the west end of the church.
The South Range
The kitchen is one of the rooms located in the south range of the abbey. This range os rooms and
buildings was where the monks dined. Known as the refectory
the range has a kitchen, a dining
room and a warming room
. The warming room was one of the few rooms in the abbey
where there was a fire.
At many locations abbeys consisted of more buildings than shown in the above plan. There was usually a simple
hospital (or infirmary) where sick monks or travellers could be tended to. Workshops, bakeries and guest houses
could also be found.