|Carved from limestone by medieval masons
Lincoln Cathedrals Romanesque Frieze on the west front of
Lincoln Cathedral would have originally been highly
colourful. According to Lincoln Cathedrals official
website the frieze was "like a cartoon, and was
highly coloured in its original form. It has Old
Testament scenes on the South Side and New Testament
scenes on the North.
The cathedral itself would have been very different when the panels were first carved. The building would have been brightly decorated with numerous paintings, statues and shrines graphically illustrating ideas and figures from the bible for the illiterate public. Most of this decoration was taken down and destroyed in the Reformation in the 1530s.
The panels of the Romanesque frieze visible today are probably fragments of a larger frieze. Cathedral historians have argued that there were probably other panels which were removed when features such as the Gallery of Kings and Gothic windows were added.
Many panels have been damaged or destroyed while others have been gradually restored in the 850 years since they were first carved. Lincoln Cathedrals West Front represents a mixture of architectural styles and periods.
The central portion of the West Front is a remnant of the original Romanesque cathedral built in the late 11th century by Bishop Remigius, to which the frieze and doorways were added in the mid 12th century by Bishop Alexander 'the Magnificent'.
The cathedral was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1185 and rebuilt with the central portion of the frieze incorporated into the design.
The restored West Front to be finally revealed.
The following item and photographs are taken and modified, with the permission of the Editor Mr Michael Sassi, from an excellent illustrated article published in the Saturday 10-Mar-2001 edition of the Lincolnshire Echo, the local evening newspaper for Lincoln and Lincolnshire. The original article was by Dan Sharp.
There are still many more panels around the building which are still un-restored. These include scenes of the expulsion of Adam & Eve from the garden of eden, God telling Noah to build his Ark and Daniel in the lions den.
The Dean of Lincoln, the Very Rev. Alec Knight said: "The recarved frieze is a revealing widow into the medieval mind. Good and evil and heaven and hell are depicted as stark realities, in turn both beautiful and fearsome.
It is not possible to misread the message. This is a unique project and tells us much about those who built this great cathedral. Some may be shocked by the power of the images."
The next step was to go back and look at existing sculpture and manuscripts. Many of the scenes and themes dealt with in the frieze have been depicted elsewhere. These scenes told us what was missing and allowed us to fill in the blanks. This was done following the style and technique of the original artist."
He said that sculptors had examined the minute details of the 12th century artists styles, noticing that several different sets of hands had worked on several of the panels.
"Some of the figures are quite crude, but that is part of the design. Other parts are more sophisticated . Form example there is a figure of Christ which is more finely depicted than other figures, and we had to be aware of those differences.
People who look at the carvings in a hundred years might say it looks a bit 21st century, but it is an accurate reproduction. The original frieze had a definite purpose, the message was this is what could happen to you and I am sure it was meant to put the fear of God into people.
The images are quite graphic. There are devils, dragons and serpents, people having their genitals bitten, that kind of thing, it gave us some interesting carving work to do."
He said he would be sad to see the work coming to an end. " I was 27 when I started and I am 38 now. It has taken a long time although I havent been working at it constantly, I think the result speaks for itself."
Each year the cathedrals running costs exceed £2 1/2 million. Apart from grants for building work, the building receives no public funding.
for a tour of the Romanesque Frieze
(graphic intensive page -please be patient)
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