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Sunday, March 26, 2017
Archaologists find St Chad's burial place and shrine
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¬†In a discovery hailed as being of "European significance" and the "foundation of English art", archaeologists working at Lichfield Cathedral have uncovered the church built to house the grave of St Chad; together with the "Lichfield Angel" - part of the shrine created around AD700 by Bishop Hedda to mark the resting place of Lichfield's first Bishop. The remains of the shrine have now been reunited for the first time in more than 1,000 years with the Lichfield Gospels ≠ an illuminated manuscript commissioned in the eighth century to adorn the shrine. And, thanks to collaboration between the Cathedral, the British Library and the Parish of Llandeilo, members of the public are able to 'turn the pages' of the precious Lichfield Gospels as they have been digitised ≠ digital versions of the St Chad Gospels will be on display in the Cathedral and also available to tour across the diocese. When St Chad became the fifth Bishop of the Mercians in AD 669 he moved the bishopric from Repton to Lichfield. The Venerable Bede reported that Chad "came to dwell by St Mary's Church". Chad died on 2nd March AD672 and Bede reported that he was buried: "close by" the Church of St Mary, but that his body was later transferred to the new church of St Peter. The exact locations of these churches have never been known; and there has been much speculation that St Chad's Church in Lichfield is located on the site of one of the original churches. But now, archaeologists believe the remains of both St Peter's Church and St Mary's Church lie under the floor of the present cathedral. The latest finds ≠ St Peter's Church, the shrine, and a number of high-status later burials around the shrine ≠ were discovered as archaeologists conducted a dig in the nave of the Cathedral to prepare the way for a new motorised retractable nave platform. The remains of St Mary's Church was discovered in the 1990s during a major programme to replace broken limestone flooring flags. It wasn't until the remains of St Peter's Church was found that it was possible to identify the remains found in the 1990s as St Mary's Church ≠ the church where Chad worshipped and preached. The "Lichfield Angel" is three adjoining fragments of an Anglo-Saxon sculptured panel. It is believed this formed part of a shrine in which the bones of St Chad were kept. Dr Warwick Rodwell, is Consultant Archaeologist at Lichfield Cathedral, led the dig. He said: "The remarkable state of preservation of the panel fragments is due to several factors. First, the sculpture had a short life span before being broken and buried. Second, the fragments were deposited inside the church and have therefore not been subject to outside weathering. Third, at least two of the three pieces were placed face-down in a pit, thereby trapping air pockets against some areas of the sculptured surface. Hence, parts of the painted decoration have never had soil in contact with them." Professor Rosemary Cramp, a trustee of the British Museum and expert in Anglo-Saxon archaeology, described the "Lichfield Angel" as being of "European importance". She added: "This carving is crucially important for the light it throws on the chronology of Anglo Saxon sculpture. Only a handful of sites have produced sculptures which are archaeologically stratified as belonging to the pre-conquest period. This piece is unusual in that an almost complete panel of a casket has been carefully reburied, some time before the Norman Conquest. This can be paralleled only in the reburied sarcophagus at Alkmund's, Derby. "This piece provides something of a missing link between England and the continent in the revival of late antique styles, a revival which on the continent is demonstrated in manuscripts and ivories, not large scale carvings. The conservation of the Lichfield Angel and its formal, stylistic and iconographic analysis is obviously of crucial importance." Today is the feast of St Chad. The Angel will be on display at Lichfield Cathedral throughout this month. Source: Lichfield Cathedral
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