Speaking with the Dead Exhibition at Exeter Cathedral

Events commemorating the start of World War I were everywhere today, but at Exeter Cathedral we were taking the longer view, with the launch of the “Speaking with the Dead” exhibition. Showcasing items from the Cathedral archives and collections alongside posters illustrating the research we have been pursuing over the last three years, the exhibition will occupy the north choir aisle for 10 days, before travelling on to St Albans (and perhaps beyond…). Philip Schwyzer and Naomi Howell gave a public lecture in the Cathedral’s Chapter House to mark the occasion. Those attending also had the opportunity to view the Cathedral’s unique and enigmatic funeral pall, stitched (it would seem) out of pre-Reformation vestments into an object of new and complex significance. (A comparable pall from the nearby church of St Mary Arches is on display in Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum.)

Although the unique wax votives associated with the tomb of Bishop Lacy are too fragile to be put on display, the exhibition features evocative replicas designed by Fiona Knott. Other highlights include the episcopal chalice of Bishop Bitton, found in his grave when it was opened in 1763; the Exeter Martyrology; the earliest manuscript monumentarium of the cathedral by J. Jones (1787); and condolence books inscribed by members of the public following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The exhibition also features video and interactive displays, highlighting the innovative work of Patricia Murietta-Flores and Ruth Nugent in applying technologies such as Reflectance Transformation Imaging to the study of cathedral inscriptions and graffiti. Sarah Grainger, who designed the magnificent posters, was on hand to assist in arranging the displays.

Below, a selection of photos taken on the day.

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