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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Gilsland: Birdoswald Relief Carving

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On display as part of an exhibition at Birdoswald Roman Fort is the above stone relief. Carved in local sandstone, the relief depicts Hercules (left) and Jupiter (right) and was found in 1821. Associated with valour, hardiness and endurance, Hercules was normally depicted holding a club. Symbolising the virtues of justice, good faith and honour, Jupiter became the protector of state and was the god of light and sky responsible for rain, hail, snow and thunder. Jupiter was also a warrior god whose aid was invoked before military undertaking and a portion of the spoils of war were always offered to him. The thunderbolt, which is missing, was raised in his hand to hurl and may have been made of iron or wood. He wears a clock which passes over his chest and hangs down by his left side.

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Zadar: Roman Forum

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Located in front of the church of St Donat is a municipal square from the Roman era. In the second half of the first century BC, Zadar became a Roman colony. As such, Zadar was developed in the typical Roman tradition used in the design of military camps (castra).

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The centre of public urban life was the Forum which in Zadar, was started by the first Roman Emperor Augustus. The open central square (lastricat) was the largest on the eastern Adriatic coast measuring 95x45m.

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During the period of late antiquity, the foundations of Christian buildings were laid which later developed into an episcopal complex consisting of several buildings built from the 4th to the 19th centuries.

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There was a temple dedicated to the Capitoline Triad, Jupiter, Juno and Minerva which were supreme deities worshipped by the Romans. The temple would have been located in the middle of the capitolium (worship area).

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Surviving fragments of beautifully decorated capitals remain on display

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