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Replica allows Gloucester Candlestick to go home

14 August 2020

Renishaw/Gloucester Cathedral

Left to right: the original is scanned at the V&A; the 3D replica before gold patina is applied by Pangolin; the completed replica

Left to right: the original is scanned at the V&A; the 3D replica before gold patina is applied by Pangolin; the completed replica

TWO exact replicas of the elaborate 12th-century “Gloucester Candlestick” have been created using modern scanning and 3D printing technologies so that one can be displayed in its original home in Gloucester Cathedral.

V&AThe original Gloucester candlestick from the V&A

The original, considered to be one of the most significant examples of Romanesque art in Europe, is held at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Three Latin inscriptions on the stem date the piece to between 1104 and 1113, when it was commissioned by Abbot Peter for St Peter’s Abbey, Gloucester. Its survival is thought to be significant, because such metalwork was commonly melted down and re-used.

It is unknown when or why the piece left the cathedral — the abbey and its contents were destroyed by fire in 1122 — but it eventually ended up in the treasury of Le Mans Cathedral, in France. It arrived at the V&A in 1861.

Canon Celia Thomson, who led the re-creation project, said on Wednesday: “Ever since I saw the Gloucester Candlestick in all its glory at the V&A I longed for it to return to the place for which it was created. Modern technology has enabled this to happen, and I’m deeply grateful to all who have played a part in recreating this masterpiece of Romanesque art in all its wondrous detail.”

The original metal is mainly bronze with a mix of copper, zinc, tin, lead, nickel, iron, and antimony, and arsenic and silver in the drip pan. Winged dragons support this, apes clamber along the stem, and hybrid animals bite, grab, and pull for position among foliage and flowers along the base. The symbols of the four Evangelists can be found at the knop (the ornamental swell in the middle of the stem).

The replicas were made by the Gloucestershire engineering company Renishaw. Formed using aluminium powder over several days, they were hand-finished, and a gold patina was applied to the surface of each piece at a foundry in Stroud.

The cathedral archivist, Rebecca Phillips, said on Tuesday: “The project has strengthened existing relationships and developed new partnerships and brought us into contact with new technologies. We hope that, when the candlestick goes on display in 2021, it will enable our visitors to connect to the devotion the monks of Gloucester felt over 900 years ago.”

Plans are in place for the second replica to be held in the Tribune Gallery chapel from early to mid-2021, depending on visitor safety guidelines. Both replicas will be available to view online on the website Gloucester History Festival 2020 as part of the “City Voices” section. Talk times and dates will be publicised shortly.

The project, which predates Covid-19, is expected to cost £27,000 on completion, mostly funded by donations: the replicas were donated by Renishaw, the scanning and patination by personal donations, and the remaining costs by Pangolin Laser Systems. More than £3000 has been raised by the Friends of Gloucester Cathedral, and a further £11,000 is to be raised through grant applications, to pay for the display, lighting, and online and visitor engagement.

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