AS WE write these lines Cardinal Bourne is consecrating at Buckfastleigh the rebuilt church of a Benedictine abbey, of which the ruins and the site were acquired some fifteen years ago by a dispossessed French community. The church is of considerable size, 220 ft. long by 30 ft. wide, and the building of it throws some light upon the building of the churches of past ages. We are wont to wonder at the vast size of such works as the naves of Ely and Durham, to think that a little army of men must have been needed to finish them within one period of architecture or one generation of men, to marvel at the labour that must have been needed when all that they had for the raising and setting of great stones were hand windlasses and appliances of a primitive kind. But the building of Buckfast shows what can be done by a very few masons who work on steadily year after year without haste and without rest. No more than six have ever been at work at one time upon it, the average has been four. Their work has been subject to many monastic obligations, on the other hand it has not been hindered by strikes or ca’ canny. They have had some advantage in the knowledge which enabled them to harness the waters of the Dart, and to drive their concrete mixers by electric power. But aids and hindrances unknown to the mediaeval builders may be supposed roughly to balance, and the fact emerges that four men working constantly can build a great church well within fifteen years.
The Church Times digital archive is available free to subscribers