PROJECT: Re-Visualising pre-1539 St Mary’s Abbey, York- Part 2

Okay…so I have now hit the 12 hour mark (I am tracking this as I go along) and I have made some (a little) progress since my previous post on my dissertation project.

I have now modelled the plan of the abbey and it’s surrounding architectural complex. I may add the precinct walls after I have finished the main structure, but here is a screenshot of where I am up to regarding the abbey plan:

3b plan complete

My plan of the abbey is modelled to scale based on a reference image that is formed from archaeological record, as most of the abbey is not standing for us to see today.

My next steps are getting the elevation proportions correct. This will be very difficult as the only images I am relying on are artist’s impressions such as this one below by Edwin Ridsdale Tate (1929) Image source: Mee, F and Wilson, B (2009) ”St Mary’s Abbey and the King’s Manor, York: The Pictorial Evidence”).

Edwin Ridsdale Tate 1929 impression- Mee and Wilson p23

For the other buildings in the complex, such as the chapter house and cloisters I will have to use my architectural knowledge of proportion alongside a close examination of Ridsdale’s elevation to work out how high I should elevate the walls, or what architectonic decoration they should have (particularly with St Mary’s being a Benedictine abbey, it will be very ornate).

I have started using Ridsdale’s elevation impression for modelling the tower, spire and roof, and I will also lower the heights of the abbey’s surrounding buildings. The screenshot below is is where I am at the moment of this project.

Overall, I am aiming for accuracy in my visualisation, both archaeological and architectural. This project is certainly bringing to light issues in visualising the uncertain. How will I represent the uncertain in my model? Also, to what extent can I rely on Ridsdale’s artist impression? What research did he base his drawing on? Whilst I model the abbey I have to think about these types of issues.

4 elevation beginnings and tower


4 thoughts on “PROJECT: Re-Visualising pre-1539 St Mary’s Abbey, York- Part 2

  1. Hey hey,

    Was just wondering if I might have a debate with you over the roofing structure over the North and South transepts. I noticed that you found inaccuracies with the Risdale Tate elevation – when modelling the abbey for my project – I had the same issue. Do you reckon the roof sloped in at an intermediate level in line with the columns in the transepts? Check out the images here: this should clarify what I’m on about!! Taking the sloped roof into account, you can get the excavation plan and the Tate elevation to match up really well. A notable similar design is displayed at Durham Cathedral – similar floor plan and sloping roofs on the transepts. What do you think? I ask as a chap is currently going through the modelling process as part of his final year project…

    1. Hello!
      Yes I was thinking of the sloped roof too after firstly modelling the straight roof in Ridsdale’s drawing and noticing it just didn’t work (the great thing about modelling!).
      I’ve spoken to a couple of people at the Yorkshire Museum and they all say no-one actually knows what the elevations and roofing actually looked like, even Ridsdale’s is a vague artist impression, so everyone’s interpretation is as valid as each others.

      I agree that we should have a close look at Durham Cathedral as it was the home of a Benedictine community, the same as St Mary’s, and it’s very close to York so each may have had an influence on each other, particularly with them both being so powerful!

      Also, I went to Damian Murphy’s lecture on this! 🙂 I was hoping to possibly use his acoustic model if I ever got to the stage where I put my model into gaming software. Did you do the modelling for this project?

      1. Hey Hannah,

        Nice one! I am sure you will get to that stage! And yes, I did the modelling in ODEON -> took ages. There’s a chap in the Audiolab who has developed an acoustic modelling program which takes a blender input. Since that is what your using – you may want to try it out?!!

        Back to the roof! I just think the resemblance between the floor plan of Durham cathedral and St. Mary’s is striking (apart from the extremity of the choir/alter side). Also – the upper roof of the transepts should really line up with the dimensions of the spire. Again, this only works if you arc in from the base wall. There’s a lot of evidence to support this topology. As I said in my message, another guy has taken on the project and has gone a different way with it. So I had to go over it again to see whether I was wrong – but I’m convinced I’m right!! Huh.

        At the same time, your point on interpretation is entirely correct. If you are interested in taking the acoustics side of things further, you should definitely swing by the Audiolab (Genesis 6) sometime. The St. Mary’s model is always available for further use.

        Hope it’s all going well and thank you for your reply.

        Very Best,


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