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ArticlesOur Green Glen

2 - The Abbey

THE cluster of buildings as seen by the passer-by, conveys no true idea of their actual extent or of their surpassing beauty. Although greatly enlarged and heightened, the buildings follow the lines of the old fort, which, as we have seen, enclosed a central square. The frontage towards the Canal is that of the School wing, adapted for the accommodation of fifty or sixty secular students. Its architecture is consequently less ecclesiastical in character than that of some of the other portions. The lofty central tower is of Scottish Baronial style. It is 100 feet high. In a niche about halfway up stands a fine stone statue of St. Benedict, the Patron both of the Order and of the Abbey. Higher still, the clock—its four faces looking north, south, east and west—keeps time for the surrounding country. Its tuneful chime, on eight bells, is a reproduction of the melody of an ancient invocation of St. Benedict.
The long front visible from Loch Ness is that of the monastery proper. It has accommodation for about sixty monks. The greater part of this wing, as well as that intended for a school, was designed by Mr Joseph Hansom—a name, by the by, perpetuated in a line entirely distinct from architecture, as that of the inventor of the " Hansom " cab. Except the three Gothic windows which mark the Refectory on the ground floor of the right-hand gable (as seen from the Loch), the character of the architecture may be designated " Domestic Gothic."

The School Fort Augustus Abbey
The School


The fine tower to the left makes a striking departure from the general style. This was the work of Mr Peter Paul Pugin, heir to the name and skill of a still more illustrious father. The tower measures 110 feet to the summit of its pointed cap. Its lower stories are apportioned to public community rooms, each with a noble bay-window looking towards the Loch. Above the wide Gothic arch, leading to the stone-lined porch of the building, stands a fine statue of St. Columba, the renowned Abbot of lona, who helped to spread the knowledge of Christianity in this district. Under the pointed roof of the tower, half visible through narrow pointed arches, hangs the great bell of the Abbey. It is known as the " Mary Bell " from the legend carved upon it, copied from one in the old Abbey of Evesham, invoking the prayers of the Blessed Virgin. This bell is used for all church services. On Sundays and the greater festivals the nine bells in the School tower are chimed in addition.
One other picturesque feature may be noticed as differing in character from the rest of the wing. This is a small Gothic apse, lighted by graceful thirteenth-century windows ; it juts out above a portion of the wall of the former NE. bastion—on the extreme right, looking from Loch Ness. This small building is the Abbot's Chapel. It formerly stood at the end of the east cloister, but was removed to its present position to afford access to the choir of the new abbey church when building operations began there some years since. The exceptionally beautiful stained glass (by Hardman and Powell) of the five windows of this chapel represents the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, namely, the Annunciation and Visitation of the Blessed Virgin, the Nativity and Presentation of Our Lord, and His being found in the Temple, after the three days loss. The glass was the gift of the 15th Duke of Norfolk, in thanksgiving for the birth of his son and heir in 1879.


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