The Lichfield Angel
Discovered in 2003, during the excavation of the east end of Lichfield Cathedral’s nave, the Lichfield Angel is a remarkable survival of early medieval sculpture. The carved limestone panel, which is dated to around 800 A.D., comprises three separate fragments which are thought to have formed the corner of a shrine chest, possibly that of St Chad (d.672), whose remains were reburied in a church on the site in the late seventh to early eighth centuries. The assembled pieces, which feature the finely carved figure of an alighting archangel, retain a unprecedented amount of their original painted decoration.
Given the Angel’s exceptional importance, it was proposed to commission a carefully sequenced and integrated programme of recording, examination and analysis which would inform decisions about the panel’s long-term conservation, as well as its display and interpretation. This preliminary phase of investigations, which has been funded by a substantial grant from the Pilgrim Trust, is being undertaken with the generous technical support of Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery.
From here you can view data generated during the course of these investigations. Careful documentation of the panel components, including high resolution digital imaging and close range 3-D laser scanning, has now been completed. These records will enable monitoring of the condition of the panel over time and afford a better understanding of the way the panel was made. The data will also assist in the provision of interpretative material showing how the fragments might originally have fitted into the St Chad shrine chest.
A detailed condition assessment has also been undertaken and further research instigated into the object’s physical history. Findings from these non-invasive investigations have informed scientific analysis of the Angel’s stone and its extensive remaining paint layer, and examination of the ways in which the materials were used. Recommendations for the long-term conservation of the Lichfield Angel have been based on the findings of these informative preliminary investigations. (Emily Howe, Lichfield Angel Project Co-ordinator)