January 20, 2022 10.27 am

‘World class’ Romanesque Frieze exhibition set for unveiling at Lincoln Cathedral visitor centre

The final milestone in £16m project

Incredible conservation work at Lincoln Cathedral by some of the finest stone carvers in the country has almost been completed, with the Romanesque Frieze exhibition set to be on display at the new purpose-built visitor centre.

Martin Coward, Tim Crawley, Andrian Melka and Alan Micklethwaite are nationally renowned stone carvers and among the best in the country, and they have been working on the copy carvings that will form part of the Romanesque Frieze exhibition at the Old Deanery visitor centre.

The final adjustments are being made for the purpose-built exhibition gallery, which will give visitors an up close and personal glimpse into the historic stories behind the Romanesque Frieze.

Copy carvings of the original Frieze, which can be found on the West Front of the building, will be on display in the visitor centre. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The carvings are replicas of the ones already up on the West Front, which will soon be scaffolding-free for the first time since the mid-1980s. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Construction began on Lincoln Cathedral’s West Front in the late 11th century. It is believed the series of high relief panels running from the north-west corner of the Norman West Front, known as the Romanesque Frieze, were carved between 1120 and 1160.

The sculptures convey scenes from both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and are so impressive given the small number of Romanesque sculptures still surviving in England.

The original carvings are believed to date back to the 12th century. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Applying the finishing touches. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

After being commissioned in 2018 thanks to National Lottery funding, the Dean and Chapter was given the opportunity to have two copies of the Friezes, one on the West Front itself and another to be put on display in the new exhibition centre.

The works will be the final milestone in Lincoln Cathedral’s £16 million National Lottery funded project, which has included landscaping of new external spaces, conservation works to the cathedral’s West Front, constructing the visitor centre itself, and improvements to the 13th century Exchequergate Arch.

The carvers have years of experience and come with national recognition. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

It should be ready by the end of January. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

As a result of all the work, the West Front will soon be scaffolding-free for the first time since 1986, allowing the public to see such masterpieces as the gallery of kings sculptures on the cathedral walls.

Speaking to The Lincolnite in December 2021, director of works and properties at Lincoln Cathedral, Michael Sheppard, 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 to 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.”

The level of detail makes the copy carving a very difficult job. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite