Illuminating the past – Enhancing the present – Inspiring the future

The excavation of the ‘Monks Graveyard’ on the east side of the cathedral has now revealed nine burials probably dating to the twelfth century. The burials are characterised by graves which are anthropomorphic (shaped in the silhouette of a human body) and the buried individuals would have been tightly wrapped in a shroud, as was the custom of the time. Later burials which have been excavated have almost always been within a coffin.

At least two of the burials lay in tombs lined with Roman tile and brick, and one individual lay in a tomb of chalk blocks. The burials within the tombs are so far clustered outside the demolished Norman apse. The foundations of this are still visible and remain to be excavated. The proximity of the graves to this part of the cathedral suggests that the people buried within were important to the cathedral in some way, although further research might confirm this. We do not think at this time that these people were monks as area was given the name ‘Monks Graveyard’ in the Victorian period and may not be accurate.

The photos show:
An early burial in a tile-lined tomb.
An excavated grave with tile and chalk lining. The grey tile at the top acted as a ‘pillow’.
Planning one of the tile-lined tomb burials.

Further burials of this date are expected as the excavation continues.
St Albans Cathedral, Monks GraveyardSt Albans Cathedral, Monks GraveyardSt Albans Cathedral, Monks Graveyard
You can read more about the excavation here.

St Albans glass beads
These blue glass beads were discovered in one of the graves excavated at St Albans and, as reported by BBCNews, they pose quite a puzzle.

St Albans papal bulla
A week or so back one of the burials being excavated at St Albans yielded an exciting find – a papal bulla, then a second and then a third! Since then, research by experts at the cathedral has revealed the identity of the occupant of the grave. Read the story on the project blog of Alban Britain’s First Saint, or more about the excavation here.

St Albans Cathedral

We will soon have an exciting update for you all from our ongoing site at St Albans Cathedral. In the meantime did you know that the original cathedral was built in 1077 and finished in just 12 years? It was constructed from material taken from the nearby ruined Roman town of Verulamium which is why the tower looks red – it’s built from Roman tile and brick!