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Abbot John at rest in St Albans Cathedral five years after remains found in excavation work

05 August 2022

St Albans Cathedral

The remains of Abbot John are carried in procession through the Cathedral on Saturday

The remains of Abbot John are carried in procession through the Cathedral on Saturday

THE remains of the 15th-century Abbot John of Wheathampstead have been laid to rest in St Albans Cathedral, five years after they were unexpectedly discovered during excavation work (News, 15 December 2017).

Abbot John was reburied in a zinc ossuary, with an Italian pewter pectoral cross, three replica papal bulls, and a scroll made from vellum detailing how he was rediscovered. The ossuary, draped in a purple pall, was borne in procession past the original 14th-century Abbot’s door during a special evensong on Saturday.

Liverpool John Moores University and FacelabA digital reconstruction of the face of Abbot John

It was placed in the tomb of his royal compatriot, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, with whom he had become friends at the end of the 1420s. The tomb is in the Chantry Chapel, near St Alban’s shrine.

The Dean of St Albans, the Very Revd Jo Kelly-Moore, said: “It was an extraordinary privilege to lay to rest Abbot John of Wheathampstead here in the Abbey that he worked to build, and within which he called people to pray, learn, and serve. His legacy is enormous, and this moment of history-making a very special one for our cathedral community.

“Beyond his achievements, in placing his bones in the ossuary, we have been inspired afresh by the life of John Bostock, born and educated locally, called by God in his day, as we each are today, to be part of living God’s love for the world.”

A digital reconstruction of Abbot John’s face was created by FaceLab, based at Liverpool John Moores University, funded by the Friends of the Cathedral.

Professor James Clarke, of the University of Exeter, said: “This is the first monk of medieval England we can look in the eye. The monasteries were a dominant feature of medieval life — not only churches, but also centres of education, culture, and the creative arts. . . Thanks to this rare archaeological discovery, and some historical detective work, at St Albans we have been able put a name to a skeleton and a face to that name.”

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