26th Oct, 2021

One of the best pieces of Medieval art in England - at Coventry's Charterhouse - restored to its former glory

ONE of the best pieces of Medieval art in the whole country has now been restored to its former glory at Coventry’s Grade I listed Charterhouse.

The only surviving wall painting in a Carthusian monastery anywhere in England depicts the Crucifixion and dates from c1430.

It is one of three artworks meticulously repaired at the venue after Historic Coventry Trust appointed medieval wall painting specialists The Perry Lithgow Partnership to carry out the work. A team of four has been on-site off London Road since March 1.

As well as the Crucifixion, an early 17th century fictive imitation tapestry and a further large mural from the late 16th century are set to attract visitors to Charterhouse, due to open in late summer 2021 during Coventry’s 12 months as UK City of Culture.

The painted sections of wall on the upper floors of Charterhouse have been cleaned, flaking paint has been stabilised and the new repairs have then been re-touched.

Mark Perry, of The Perry Lithgow Partnership, said it was a fascinating project to be involved in.

“I first came to inspect the paintings in 2014 and so have been looking forward to working on their restoration for the last seven years.

“I think anyone involved in conservation would love to work on this project because it involves such significant wall paintings from the 15th to the 17th centuries.”

The earliest painting at Charterhouse depicts the Crucifixion in the centre with the Virgin Mary and St Anne on either side and several smaller figures in between.

The main figures are very large and the painting would originally have covered the whole of the south wall of the monastery’s refectory.

Due to extensive Post Reformation alterations to the building, only the bottom half now remains.

“The Crucifixion is a really beautiful painting. Whilst much has been lost, large areas remain intact and in good condition, whereas a lot of medieval paintings are badly degraded.

“We don’t know who the artists were. There are very few wall paintings in England that have been signed or have historical documents related to their creation but the quality of the Crucifixion painting is extremely high.”

He added it was likely to have been created by a well-known artist from the courts or a major religious centre,

The painting provides a historical record of interior decoration at the time Charterhouse was constructed and what the building would have been like before it was converted into a house in the 16th century.

“The Charterhouse building itself is fascinating and when you have wall paintings as well, it is a real bonus.

“It is a building of which the people of Coventry should be rightly proud and it is an indication of how important a place Coventry was in medieval times.”

Ian Harrabin, Chairman of Historic Coventry Trust, said it was fascinating to watch the wall paintings being carefully repaired and restored to their former glory.

“The colours are so much bolder now that years of grime have been cleaned off.

“Each painting is an historical record of a time in the city’s history and is a fantastic way to bring history to life for school children and the local community.

“I’m sure the importance of the building will attract national and international visitors to Coventry particularly during UK City of Culture.”

Historic Coventry Trust’s £8million restoration of Charterhouse has been carried out in conjunction with Coventry City Council.

Major grants have been secured from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England and several trusts and foundations including Garfield Weston, Wolfson, Foyle and Historic Houses Foundation, Edward Cadbury and AllChurches.

Interactive displays will chart the site’s long history since it was founded by King Richard II in 1385 and recreate part of the cloister and two monks’ cells set in the walled garden. The Charterhouse will be the focal point of the new 70-acre Charterhouse Heritage Park along the banks of the River Sherbourne.

Coun David Welsh, Coventry City Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, added: “The restoration of Charterhouse is all finally coming together after many years of action by the local community to see this important heritage preserved for future generations.

“Seeing the meticulous restoration of the wall paintings by national experts was a real treat.”

He added Coventry had some exceptional heritage buildings – many which had been forgotten for decades but were now being restored and repurposed so they could be enjoyed by visitors.

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