Archaeology at Glastonbury Abbey on-line

Trustees of Glastonbury Abbey, 2007 (updated 2010)

Data copyright © Trustees of Glastonbury Abbey, Individual Authors unless otherwise stated


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https://doi.org/10.5284/1000292
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Trustees of Glastonbury Abbey (2010) Archaeology at Glastonbury Abbey on-line [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1000292

The Lady Chapel

Overview

The evidence for a painted polychrome scheme of great richness survives on the internal wall faces of the Lady Chapel. Although sufficient survives to show that it covered all the internal wall surfaces, the remains are concentrated in a band of intersecting arches about one metre wide which crowns the arcade of the lower register of the interior. The colours employed were ochre, red, blue, green and white, with black lining and some fragments of gold leaf. The motifs included foliage scrolls, stars, sun and moon - the last probably connected with the dedication of the chapel to the Virgin Mary.

View of arcade (by John Adams)

One significant enrichment of the original scheme was noted: holes placed at regular intervals in the upper spandrels of the arcade indicate the former positions of armatures holding some form of light ornamental fixtures - perhaps metal sunbursts.

The adjoining Galilee was built in the late 13th century, linking the chapel to the west front of the nave of the great church. At some point after that, the whole rich scheme in the chapel was painted over with white limewash; at least two further limewashings were carried out before the Dissolution of the abbey in 1539.

The study presents the medieval documentation relating to the Lady Chapel and discusses the evidence for its dating. After a consideration of the reasons for the survival of the painted scheme in the arcade, the report describes the architectural setting, then the detailed evidence for the colours and motifs of the scheme.

A concluding section adds the evidence for other fragments of polychromy noted elsewhere in the abbey in the recent past.

The study was undertaken by Jerry Sampson, an archaeologist specialising in the medieval architecture of the West Country, aided by the conservators Sue and Lawrence Kelland, Eddie Sinclair, Annie Evans and Andrew Treverton.