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They show scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, the Crucifixion, monks, monsters and humorous animals.
South of the church stands a cloister surrounded by ranges of buildings on three sides, the church forming the fourth.
It is not known precisely when the building work began, but major gifts by King Henry of roofing timber and lead from Derbyshire in 12 indicate that some of the eastern parts of the church, and probably of the east cloister range too, had by then reached an advanced stage.
The presence of a foundation stone at the base of the southeast pier of the crossing inscribed "H. GRA REX ANGE" (Latin for Henry by the Grace of God King of the English) shows that the foundations of the centre of the church reached ground level after 1251, the year Henry III formally became the abbey's patron.
Unlike other orders of monks who allowed parishioners and visitors admission to the nave, the Cistercians officially reserved their churches solely for the use of the monastic community.
In the nave, the south aisle had plain triple lancets set high in the wall to avoid the cloister roof.It is thought that only after the house was taken under the wing of Henry III, who became interested in it in the mid-1240s, was progress made on the buildings.The King eventually assumed the role of patron in 1251.Subsequently the ruins became a tourist attraction, and provided inspiration to poets and artists of the Romantic movement.In the early twentieth century the site was given to the nation, and it is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument, cared for by English Heritage.