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The Unfinished Cathedral

comments (10) December 17th, 2013 in blogs

DillonRyan Dillon Ryan, assistant editor
thumbs up 112 users recommend

The models sheer size and attention to detail are astounding.
The iconic stained glass window was hand carved from a single piece of 1/4 in. poplar.
Even the interior is a scale replica, including the vaulted ceilings and arching pillars.
The models sheer size and attention to detail are astounding. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

The model's sheer size and attention to detail are astounding.

Brick by brick and arch by arch, this 32:1 scale wood-carving of the North Entrance of Westminster Abbey was constructed by architect and woodworker Richard C. Lane just as the original cathedral masters built the famous church.


Mr. Lane began construction of the piece in 2005, at the age of 85. The project was started as a study in architecture and an attempt to understand the lives and faith of those who built Westminster Abbey.

He traveled to England to study the gothic cathedral and after becoming friends with the Westminster librarian, was allowed to visit, study and sketch portions of the structure not open to the public.


The 55 in. wide by 36 in. deep by 57 in. tall model was assembled from poplar, basswood and hardwood logs that Lane milled down in his basement shop. While he used his band saw and miter saw for the rough cutting, all the fine detail work was done by hand using chisels.


Disaster struck in 2010 when the top half of the model was severely damaged by workers during a home improvement. The structure would remain in pieces until Lane's passing in 2012.


Heather Lane-Fowler, his daughter, then spent 6 months rebuilding the cathedral piece by piece using the drawing, photographs and blueprints her father had left.


The rebuilt Westminster Abbey model was exhibited in the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum during the 2013 ArtPrize, an art show held throughout downtown Grand Rapids, Mich. It has since been donated to Grand Valley State University in nearby Allendale, where it will be put on display and preserved.

posted in: blogs, workshop, tool, WorkBench, carving, wood turning, poplar, basswood, abbey, architecture

Comments (10)

jmdanmar jmdanmar writes: It doesn't matter how often I come back to look at this model I'm still blown away. Just astounding. I am in awe of anyone with the talent and patience to do something like this. How nice it would have been to meet this man.
Posted: 9:19 pm on August 6th

BAR BAR writes: Age matters not! The drive to use the God given talent that one has, is not a choice by the craftsman, it is like an instinct that cannot be controlled.
This man was Blessed with a talent that wasn't going to be denied.
I'm 86 yrs. young, and always looking forward to the next project that this inner drive pushes me to.
That said the work of this man and the completion by his daughter is truly amazing. It deserves to be shared with others, I think an extension of the story should be done to honor there talent, and show us all, that good things still happen in this world, in spite of the daily news.

Posted: 9:05 am on January 8th

skiRAH skiRAH writes: wonderful, that the project can live, I grew up on the construction sites, my parents had a construction company and no money for babysitters, I learnt so much by watching and doing, women have a great ability for wood, and all the possibilities, thank you for sharing yours and of course your father's dream. He lives on!
R. A. Heddinger, Calgary
Posted: 6:04 pm on January 3rd

Jezk Jezk writes: Dillion Ryan:

Very nice article about evidently a very nice man with a special talent, and his gifted daughter. If your readers are interested in Westminster Abbey they can obtain some good background information at

John Klein
Posted: 11:03 am on December 30th

drsprky drsprky writes: That's the definition of Craftsmanship - what Latheman wrote about spending a life; pouring oneself into a project that one would never see completed in his lifetime. I'm reminded of the artisans not only of the fine cathedrals and palaces, but it goes all the way to Solomon's Temple and even the pyramids. It's hard not to make too much of it all. Creativity and innovation are far too little-esteemed in these present trying times. I'm also familiar with the heartbreak of a "masterpiece" being destroyed. Mine was unsalvagable.
Posted: 6:53 pm on December 28th

mridey mridey writes: This is a very humbling work for a rookie woodworker like me, but absolutely fascinating that one man could do this. Equally amazing is that his daughter rebuilt it! Hopefully the "workers" met the same fate as those who damaged cathedrals being built hundreds of years ago!

There is surprisingly little else to be found by "Googling" this work, and Mr.Lane; just a few more pictures here:

An excellent book the covering all aspects of building 12th century gothic cathedrals is "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. Fiction, but a good read.

Posted: 11:24 am on December 28th

10pennyjack 10pennyjack writes: Doesn't say much for the home improvement workers, I'm sure most of us would have made sure it was put back to it's original condition no mater what the time or expense!
Posted: 11:20 am on December 28th

SNations SNations writes: Can you imagine the upheaval when the thing was destroyed by "workman" after 5 years of working on it. I love this kind of story, I wonder are the bricks individual pieces or made in a section ? I would have loved to have seen a picture or 2 of the Craftsman and Craftswoman, Richard and Heather. More photos'of the Abby as well and a shot or 2 of the original - There is a lot more that could have been done with this fascinating story. 5+ years of work and such a short article. 5 years and only 6 short paragraphs leaves me hungry for more. Lol..
Posted: 10:32 am on December 28th

EdKinMelb EdKinMelb writes: Since it took decades for the 100s of craftsmen who built the original (with many of those craftsmen dying on the job), it's not surprising that this model took many years to complete. It's a shame that that Richard did not see his Masterpiece exhibited, but much kudos must go to his very talented daughter. There was certainly engineering in Richards genes and in his daughter. Magnificent.
Posted: 5:47 am on December 28th

latheman latheman writes: What a craftsman! In the same vein as cathedral builders, this gentleman spent years studying, crafting and building a project he may or may not finish in his lifetime. FANTASTIC!
Posted: 4:42 am on December 28th

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