Gloucester Cathedral begins conservation of cloister
By Sarah Wood | 3rd August 2022
Work is underway to conserve the extraordinary 14th century cloister at Gloucester Cathedral.
The cloister is widely regarded as one of the best and earliest examples of fan vaulting in the world, making it of international architectural significance. To many it is famous for being Hogwarts in three of the Harry Potter movies.
But a 2019 survey confirmed it is at risk and in urgent need of conservation.
Now, with generous support from Julia and Hans Rausing, who have donated £550,000 to the project, the cathedral's stonemason team and other specialists have started the trial phase of The Cloister Project.
This phase will equip them with the insight and knowledge needed to move forward with the long-term conservation work, which will involve carefully removing Victorian cement used as mortar in repairs between blocks of stone. The cement is currently preventing the ancient stones from 'breathing', causing them to blister and decay, so needs to be replaced with a lime-based mortar.
Julia and Hans Rausing, who made the project possible with their donation, said: "No one who walks through the cloister at Gloucester Cathedral can fail to be struck by its overwhelming beauty. The intricate design of the stonemasonry, particularly the fan vaulted ceiling, is remarkable and its visual impact touches the many thousands of visitors to the cathedral each year.
"We are delighted to help ensure that this magnificent feat of medieval architecture is preserved, so that visitors and worshippers can continue to enjoy it for hundreds of years to come."
Visitors to the cathedral will be able to see the conservation work first-hand, learning about the people and the techniques used to protect the heritage building.
As the project evolves, there will be opportunities for the public to engage with the stonemasons through carving workshops, demonstrations and a range of other activities.
The project will also be used to develop the cathedral's stonemason training and mentoring programme, with at least 11 new apprentices learning their craft throughout the process. It is a once-in-a-millennia opportunity to work on something so architecturally significant, and it will enable craft skills to pass from one generation to the next.
When it was completed in around 1412, the cloister formed a central part of daily life for the monks who lived there. It was where they ate, slept, studied and exercised.
Today, the cloister is every bit as central to the 21st century cathedral. It is a place for prayer and reflection, as well as a space for art exhibitions and community events, an iconic filming location for blockbuster movies and so much more.
Canon Dr Andrew Braddock, interim Dean of Gloucester, said: "We are hugely grateful to Julia and Hans Rausing for their incredibly generous support of this project.
"The cloister, with its amazing fan-vaulted ceiling, is one of Gloucester Cathedral's most iconic and beautiful spaces. Sitting at the heart of the cathedral's buildings, it is a place of encounter, meeting, reflection and wonder, attracting thousands of visitors every year.
"This project will ensure the cloister remains open for everyone and will be at the very heart of the cathedral's daily rhythm of life for generations to come."
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