Lanercost Priory: Undercroft

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Beneath the refectory (dining room) in the south cloister range at Lanercost Priory is the vaulted undercroft. Originally divided in two, the undercroft was built during the mid 13th century and provided plenty of space for storage of food and drink. The last three bays were known as the warming room, the only place the canons were allowed to keep warm in front of a fire. As with the other monastic buildings at the priory, the undercroft is constructed of dressed sandstone and originally lay beneath the refectory which was a victim of the Dissolution.

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Providing a practical way for masons to identify which pieces of masonry they have produced, the marks of the masons were used both as a way for masons to ensure they were paid for their work and as a quality control. Many such marks (above and below) can be found on numerous stones around the priory.

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The marks of the masons provide us with evidence for the working practices of the highly-skilled and able men who constructed the magnificent stone structures of the past. The marks were put on the stone for entirely practical reasons and in answer to the particular needs of the industry. Most masons only worked on site between the spring and the autumn and work was scaled right down during the winter when it was not possible to build for fear of frost damaging the partially complete structure.

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Archaeological excavations in 1994 recorded eighty seven masons marks with tooling marks evident on most of the masonry wall blocks. The position of the marks on the lower courses of the wall above the foundations suggest that they are related to the first phases of construction of the priory church in circa 1200 A.D. We may not be able to identify, or name, all the masons from their marks but we can use them to deepen our understanding of their work and appreciate more the buildings that they helped to create.

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The undercroft contains replicas of Roman altars and tombstones found near Lanercost over the last 200 years. The above relief sculpture depicts Hercules on the left and Jupiter on the right. A similar relief was found in 1821 at Birdoswald Roman Fort and a more detailed description can be found in my earlier post entitled Gilsland: Birdoswald Relief Carving (July).

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The above altar is dedicated “To Jupiter, Best and Greatest, the First Aelian Cohort of Dacians… willingly and deservedly fulfiled its vow, with (…) rinus, beneficiarius, in charge of the work.” The Province of Dacia was situated in Romania and a beneficiarius was someone who had been seconded for special duties.

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The above altar is “To the god Cocidius the soldiers of the Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix willingly and deservedly fulfiled their vow in the consulship of Apr… and Ruf…” Cocidius was a native god and is identified with the Roman gods Mars and Silvanus. This altar was dedicated in AD 153. On the left hand side is a jug and on the right is a dish for pouring the libation or offering on to the top of the altar. A wild boar, symbol of the Twentieth Legion, is portrayed on the base of the altar. This altar was found in the foundations of Milecastle 52 at Bankshead.

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The above altar is “To the god Cocidius the soldiers of the Second Legion Augusta willingly and deservedly fulfiled their vow.” This altar was also found in the foundations of Milecastle 52 at Bankshead.

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The above altar is “To the holy god Cocidius, Annius Victor, legionary centurion.” The cult of Cocidius was limited to north Britain and most of the dedications to him come from Hadrian’s Wall or its vicinity.

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Ulverston: Conishead Priory

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Located on Priory Road in Ulverston is the former country house, Conishead Priory. The building stands on the site of a 12th century Augustinian Priory which remained as a priory until 1537 when the building was dismantled. The estate came into the hands of the Braddyll family in 1683 who made Conishead their family seat for almost two centuries.

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In 1818, Colonel Thomas Braddyll succeeded to the estate and commissioned the English architect Philip Wyatt to rebuild Conishead. The work was completed by the English architect George Webster with craftsmen from all over the world commissioned to carve the elaborate stonework.

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Constructed of rendered brick, limestone and sandstone, the Gothic style building features many pointed arches on the exterior with traceried windows and panelled octagonal chimneys.

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In 1976, the estate was sold and became the home of the Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre. The building is Grade II* Listed.

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Dubrovnik: Dominikanska Priory

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In the east part of the city and close to the walls  is the large architectural complex of the Dominican monastery. It is a major treasury of cultural and art heritage in Dubrovnik. In its library are numerous illuminated manuscripts and a rich archive with precious documents. The monastery and church buildings were completed in the 14th century although the Dominicans established their monastery in 1225. The church is one of the largest Gothic buildings on the east Adriatic coast. Of a simple architectural design featuring a hall with a pentagonal Gothic apse which is separated from the central area by three high openings with Gothic arches. The Monastery complex acquired its final shape in the 15th century when the vestry, the chapter house and the cloister were added.

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The beautiful porches of the cloister were built between 1456 and 1483 by local builders. The arches of the cloister are closed by Gothic and Renaissance triforas. In the middle of the courtyard is a richly decorated cistern crown.

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The interior is rich in stone church furniture, a pulpit , gravestones and Renaissance niches.

Dubrovnik: Franjevački samostan

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The large complex of the Franciscan monastery (Friars Minor) is located at the very beginning of the Placa and to the left of the Pile Gate. Spreading north along the walls as far as the tower Minceta, the lateral facade of the monastery church runs along the principle street of Dubrovnik. The monastery building was started in 1317. Some parts were destroyed and rebuilt several times. The large Franciscan church which was one of the richest in Dubrovnik at the time, was destroyed in the 1667 earthquake. The portal on the south wall is the only element of the former building which has been preserved.

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The portal is believed to have been moved from the front to the lateral wall during the course of the 17th century restoration.  It was the most monumental portal in Dubrovnik, according to the contract of 1498, and was carved in the local workshop owned by the brothers Leonard and Petar Petrovic. The figures of St.Jerome and St.John the Baptist are set above the door-posts with the Pietr in relief is represented in the central Gothic lunette. Above the lunette is the figure of the Father Creator.

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The cloister was built by master Mihoje Brajkov of Bar in 1360. Framed by a colonnade of double hexaphoras with each having a completely different capital.

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The Franciscan cloister is of late Romanesque design and considered one of the most valuable creations on the Croatian shores of the Adriatic.

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 In 1317 a pharmacy was founded in the monastery, the third oldest in the world and continues to function today. The monastery owns one of the richest libraries in Croatia, famous all over the world for its inventory. The collection has over 20,000 books, over 1200 of which are old manuscripts and 7 books of old church corals.

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Shield set in the stone walls of the cloister