December 13, 2021 6.30 pm

Behind the scaffolding: Lincoln Cathedral west front works due to finish after five years

Lincoln Cathedral front will be scaffolding free for the first time in 35 years

Conservation works of the Romanesque Frieze at Lincoln Cathedral, which has seen 900-year-old sculptures cleaned and fixed to preserve the building’s history, will be complete at the start of next year, clearing the scaffolding from the west front.

The Romanesque Frieze is one of the most recognisable parts of Lincoln Cathedral, with scenes from the old and new testaments of the bible depicted in the form of 11th century sculptures and carvings.

The northern frieze run was removed from the cathedral in the late 1990s due to the fragility of the stone, and replaced with copy carvings.

The cathedral west front has had scaffolding on it for over 30 years. That is about to come to an end. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

After £1.5 million of national lottery heritage funding, Lincoln Cathedral has now been able to get a conservation makeover, as masonry experts look to maintain the heritage of the building for the next century at least.

The project started in 2016 and, upon completion in mid-January 2022, the west front of Lincoln Cathedral will be scaffolding-free for the first time since 1986, leaving the frieze available for all to see.

A project that started five years ago, but has been discussed for decades. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The copy carvings of these sculptures will be available to see at The Old Deanery visitor centre in the New Year, as well as being able to view the existing designs on the cathedral walls.

The southern run of the Romanesque Frieze is being laser cleaned with the same technology found in tattoo removal and laser eye surgery, in order to carefully maintain the traditional features.

Each of the king sculptures hold different poses that signify each character. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The centrepiece of the project was the conservation of the gallery of kings, 11 sculptures which are free standing in their own designated area.

The magnificent stone carvings date back hundreds of years, with each king sat in a different, unique way that best describes their characters, somewhat of a secret language from the original artists.

Michael Sheppard is the director of works for the cathedral, and he has taken great pride in the work so far. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Michael Sheppard, director of works and properties at Lincoln Cathedral, said: “It’s a huge honour to work on a project of this scale and magnitude, it’s a really unique opportunity particularly for a cathedral.

“For many of us here it is a career highlight, as these kind of works won’t need to be done again for another 100-150 years.

“I might be biased but this conservation work is world class. It is completely bespoke and whatever we do has an implication, so it’s really important that we maintain the original fabric with as little intervention as possible.”

Some of the designs have had to be shut away in order for the laser cleaning to be safely executed. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

It is part of a £16m wider scheme for works at Lincoln Cathedral, including the building of the Old Deanery visitor centre.

The Lincolnite‘s photographer Steve Smailes was able to get some close-up photos of these magnificent sculptures:

900-year-old Norman architecture in the Great West Door. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Incredible fine details are kept the same as they were when first built. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Impressive to think this was created out of stone nearly 700 years ago. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Copy carvings can be found at the visitor centre as well. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The Lincolnite got to take a look up the scaffolding at all the work that’s been going on behind the scenes. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

All eleven kings sit proudly on their thrones. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Each sculpture tells a tale from the Bible. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Bishops sit on either side of the kings, preserved for close to 700 years. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

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