Abbot John of Wheathampstead reburied at St Albans Cathedral
- Credit: Emma Collins
The remains of a 15th century abbot discovered during building work at St Albans Cathedral have been reburied at a special ceremony.
Discovered unexpectedly during excavation work in 2017, Abbot John of Wheathampstead, one of the most influential Benedictine Abbots of his age, has been laid to rest alongside his royal compatriot Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.
For 480 years, his burial site was unknown until he was found alongside three papal bulls that Pope Martin V had given him 40 years before he died.
During a very special Evensong on Saturday, Abbot John’s earthly remains were placed in a zinc ossuary, draped in a purple pall and taken on their final journey via the original 14th century abbot’s door, which he would have used daily to enter what was then the Abbey.
The Very Reverend 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”.
Funded by the Friends of St Albans Cathedral, Abbot John’s face was digitally reconstructed by FaceLab, based at Liverpool John Moores University.
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Professor James Clarke, 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.
"Thousands of people lived and worked in them throughout the Middle Ages but we know very little about them. 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.”
Abbot John and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester became fine friends by the end of the 1420s, with the Duke’s spirituality drawing him close to Alban, Britain’s first saint, as well as their love of literary culture. It was felt fitting to reunite the friends and place Abbot John next within the tomb of Humphrey in the Chantry Chapel, near to the Shrine of St Alban.