A small, highly skilled team specialising in sculpture and architectural conservation, have recently concluded essential restoration work on the Chichester Reliefs.
These two panels (located in the South Quire aisle) are considered to be amongst the finest masterpieces of Romanesque sculpture. A detailed study concluded that they were probably carved in the 12th century and were hidden in the Cathedral for centuries before they were found behind the choir stalls in 1829.
The panels depict Christ being met by Martha and Mary at the Gate of Bethany, and the Raising of Lazarus from the dead. Originally the sculptures would have been painted and the eye-sockets fitted with glass or semi-precious stones.
The work was carried out by Lynne Humphries and Emma Norris from the Somerset-based group of conservators 'Humphries and Jones'. During their two week restoration programme, Lynne and Emma undertook to: remove earlier Victorian restoration work in order to carry out cleaning and a sympathetic restoration; smooth out the joins between the limestone blocks that make up the Reliefs; remove the later mortar repairs so that the original sculpture is now more prominent; fill in any severe cracks in the joins of the blocks; and reduce the risk of crumbling and powdering.
A glass frontage has now been removed from one of the Reliefs so that visitors can get a closer look at these beautiful sculptures.