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Preserving the Sedilia

Saturday, 5th January 2008

Preserving the Sedilia

Conservation work to has begun stabilise the fragile structure of the 14th century Sedilia, one of Westminster Abbey’s greatest treasures, begins on Tuesday 8th January. The Sedilia, the set of four canopied seats on the south side of the High Altar, were installed in about 1307. They feature richly decorated panels, which are considered to be amongst the earliest panel paintings in the UK.

Painted by highly skilled craftsmen, they signify a very refined and highly developed tradition of oil painting. The panels originally depicted eight figures, four on both sides. Some were destroyed during the Reformation and Civil War whilst others have simply not survived the passage of time. Those that remain show St John the Evangelist as the pilgrim receiving a ring from St Edward the Confessor, and the Annunciation on the south side, and two kings on the north side.

Visitors will be able to see conservators from the Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge, which specialises in the conservation of paintings and painted surfaces, at work on most days. Work will concentrate on conserving the existing structure, rather than reconstructing any of the missing detail.

The treatment will stabilise the flaking paint and gilding of the existing structure by introducing an adhesive between the lifting paint layers and the wooden support. Dust and dirt will be removed using soft brushes, special sponges and cotton wool swabs soaked with de-ionised water.

This project is made possible, in part, by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and the WORLD MONUMENTS FUND® Kress Foundation European Preservation Programme and should be completed by summer 2008.

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Matthew - Keeper of the Muniments

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