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Kirkstall Abbey: 12. Loose sculpture, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°49′17″N, 1°36′23″W)
Kirkstall Abbey: 12. Loose sculpture
SE 260 362
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now West Yorkshire
  • Rita Wood
April and May 2010; 17 Feb 2017

Please use this link to cite this page - https://www.crsbi.ac.uk/view-item?i=2319.

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Feature Sets

Several groups of fragments of carved stonework from Kirkstall Abbey have been preserved:

a. On-site in a store off the S transept, the largest cache.

b. On display in the Visitor Centre: the stonework seen in 2010 was not displayed in 2017.

c. In the inaccessible monks’ parlour: fragments glimpsed in 2017 included waterleaf capitals.

d. In the Leeds City Council stores, finds including excavated stonework. A stone from a cornice with an interlace cross illustrated in Irvine (1892, 29-30) may perhaps be in a City Council store, but not seen.

For general remarks see report for Kirkstall Abbey: 01 Church.


Loose Sculpture


There are several loose cloister capitals, and St John Hope illustrates fragments (Hope and Bilson 1907). Stuart Harrison uses these to make a reconstruction of the arcade, suggesting a date of 1170 to 1175 (Robinson and Harrison 2006; Fergusson 1984). Any loose sculpture in Magnesian limestone probably comes from these cloister arcades.

The most significant remains are glazing bars from the E window of the church: the remnants have been used to reconstruct the unusual rose window (Harrison 1995). Some of this stonework is in the store off the S transept. It was of sandstone, like all the first phase of the abbey in the time of Abbot Alexander.


P. Fergusson, Architecture of Solitude: Cistercian Abbeys in Twelfth-Century England, Princeton 1984, 48-51, 130.

S. Harrison, 'Kirkstall Abbey: the 12th-century Tracery and Rose Window', in L. R. Hoey ed., Yorkshire Monasticism: Archaeology, Art and Architecture, British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions 16 (1995), 73-8.

W. H. St. John Hope and J. Bilson, Architectural description of Kirkstall Abbey, Thoresby Society, vol. 16, 1907, fig. 92; 132.

J. T. Irvine, 'Notes on specimens of interlacing ornament which occur at Kirkstall Abbey', Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 48, (1892), 26-30.

D. Robinson and S. Harrison, 'Cistercian cloisters in England and Wales', in M. Henig and J. McNeill eds., The Medieval Cloister in England and Wales, l. Journal of the British Archaeological Association 159 (2006), 141, 192-3, fig. 49.