Norwich Cathedral Archaeology Developments

The new building from the outsideA two-phase programme is underway to develop new facilities in all three ranges of the medieval cloister at Norwich: the £10m project will be the most comprehensive re-development at a cathedral since the Victorian period. The first phase of the development was completed in February 2004, with the opening of a new refectory designed by Hopkins Architects (built by local contractor RG Carter). The new building was constructed in the shell of the twelfth-century refectory of the medieval cathedral priory. The project was ten years in planning, with protection of the archaeology as a central concern. Interior view of the new facilityProfessor Gilchrist worked closely with a multi-disciplinary design team, with the aim of mitigating impact on the archaeology and the setting of the cathedral. The concept is a predominantly glass building which sits within the walls of the twelfth-century refectory. The new build is independent of the surviving north and east walls of the medieval structure, which retain important original evidence.

The shell of the former refectoryThe refectory of the medieval cathedral priory was constructed c. 1125; it was one of the largest in Europe and its massive scale would have dwarfed the sixty monks for whom it was intended. The Benedictine monks were required to eat communally each day, observing silence while listening to the reading of a religious text. They were seated in order of their seniority, with the prior and senior officers occupying their own table at the upper end, divided from the main body of the refectory by a screen. From the surviving fabric of the north and east walls, we can discern that the refectory was an open, ground-floor hall. Unusually, there was a gallery at the level of the windows, a feature more typical of the architecture of the cathedral church itself. Reconstruction of the medieval refectoryThis wall-passage provided access around the refectory, and to the stair turrets in the corners, which connected with other buildings. The reconstruction shows the refectory as it would have appeared before a devastating fire of 1272. It is reconstructed on the basis of archaeological evidence, with the exception of the ceiling, which is based on a contemporary continental example.

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