Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New book examines the medieval history of St Paul’s Cathedral

As the current St Paul’s building celebrates its 300th anniversary, the cathedral’s archaeologist John Schofield brings together the lives of its predecessors for the first time in one publication. St Paul’s Cathedral Before Wren, published this week by English Heritage, highlights the historical and religious importance of the cathedral and churchyard site over the course of its first 1000 years, allowing its buried buildings to rise from the roots of St Paul’s once again.

The book contains documents, surveys and early maps showing the development of the religious complex and illuminating the lives of its occupants. The account starts with the cathedral’s foundation in 604 AD. (It was popularly rumoured that a Roman temple of Diana was built on the site, but there is no evidence for this.) The main focus is on excavations and observations between 1969 and 2006, but discoveries dating from the time of Wren himself are included. One such example is the discovery of Roman pottery kilns by local apothecary and pioneering archaeologist John Conyers, as foundations for the new north transept were dug in 1677.

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