During excavations to investigate the rotting medieval wooden foundations of Furness Abbey, an undisturbed grave of an abbot was discovered in the presbytery, generally reserved for the richest benefactors. The medieval grave contained the remains of an abbot belonging to the Cistercian order which was the most powerful monastic order in England. The grave, which may date to the 11th century, also contained a rare medieval silver-gilt crosier.
An abbot or bishop usually held a crosier (ecclesiastical ornament) with his left hand and was used at liturgical functions. The head of the crosier is is decorated with gilded silver medallions showing the Archangel Michael defeating a dragon.
On display in Furness Abbey Museum is the effigy of a lady wearing a long dress and a cloak which is tucked up under her right arm.
Wearing a veil and a wimple, her head rests on a pillow while her feet rest upon a dog – a sign of faithfulness. The effigy dates to the 14th century and may represent a member of the Lancaster family, Barons of Kendal, who had right of burial here from the 13th century.
On display in Furness Abbey Museum is a medieval stone tomb cover. The stone is likely to have come from the grave of a Lady Christina or Christiana, the second daughter of a nobleman. Many grave covers were discovered at the east end of the abbey church in the 19th century but were not in their original positions.
On display in Furness Abbey Museum are pieces of richly carved stone which once formed part of the abbey’s structure.
Capital with masons mark
Furness Abbey was constructed from locally available soft red sandstone and grey limestone. As a result of being disintegrated by wind and rain, much of the medieval carving has been lost.
Buildings were continually modified, updated or demolished due to changes in fashion and building technology. Fragments of stonework is often re-used which can sometimes be the only evidence of such changes.
On display in Furness Abbey museum are two effigies of knights which once covered the graves of benefactors in the abbey church.
Dating between 1225-1250, the effigies show a rare and early style where the knights face is completely covered by his helmet.
The sword pommel shows that the influence of Viking swords of the 9th and 10th centuries still lingered in the region.