Page last updated at 18:09 GMT, Friday, 15 January 2010

Salisbury Cathedral experts uncover hidden gothic text

Conservator Tom Beattie studies the text
Conservator Tom Beattie describes the script as exquisite

Conservation experts have uncovered historic hidden text inscribed on the wall of Salisbury Cathedral.

The text in gothic lettering, thought to be more than 350 years old, was found behind the Henry Hyde monument.

Conservator Tom Beattie said: "We are used to uncovering information about the fabric of the building as we go about our daily work.

"But this has to be one of the best finds. We are all left wondering what the writing was for and what it says."

The discovery was made when the conservators moved the Henry Hyde monument from the south aisle wall to repair and clean it.

Biblical text

Tim Tatton Brown, the cathedral's archaeologist, said: "Sir Henry Hyde had been quietly buried in the cathedral in 1650 after his execution by Parliament for supporting King Charles I.

"There are several lines of a large textual inscription. Unfortunately it has subsequently been whitewashed over, making it difficult to read, but the good gothic lettering is clearly visible.

"It needs a specialist to confirm what it is but my guess is that it is a biblical text, put there in the Elizabethan period when the nave was fitted out with high pews for people to sit in to listen to the sermons preached there.

"Inscriptions of the bible would have been written on the inside walls of the building following the Reformation, having been translated into English in Cranmer's bible."

Canon Treasurer Mark Bonney said: "We think the best approach is to preserve the text in its present state and then carry out a comprehensive photographic record before it is covered up again when the monument is returned to the wall."

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