Reconstructing our church through time

A principal objective of our project was to create 3D visualisations of how the church looked at key points in its history.  The site is now almost 1,400 years old and the church has changed dramatically over that time.  It has changed remarkably even in the last 150 years, and each generation has seen changes, some of them very substantial.

Many people are familiar with the sophisticated techniques now available to create virtual images of buildings.  We believe that 3D digital reconstructions of this kind are a very powerful way of communicating the history of our fantastically interesting church, and this is almost the only way to get an immediate understanding of the Anglo-Saxon church buried south of the current church now that the excavation is over.  The remains are too fragile to leave exposed to the weather, so for their own protection, once they were studied and recorded thoroughly, they were reburied beneath protective layers of geotextile and sand.

We used laser scanning to obtain a complete 3D digital record of the whole church site inside and out.  We then worked with the expert team at the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture (CSCC), based at the University of York, which has a wealth of experience working on and virtually reconstructing ecclesiastical sites across the country, to create 3D digital reconstructions.  You can follow the link to explore some of their other projects on-line.

The software showing a panning view of the 7th Century church up to the roof
The software showing a drill down to view additional information about the roof
The software showing the external development of the standing parish church

The archaeological excavation revealed much valuable information about how the church was made. We have had to speculate on much where detail did not survive. The software is now installed on a touchscreen that is mounted into a display unit in the north aisle of the parish church. This unit contains a display of archaeological material from the 2019 dig, created for us by design team Jakaranda Tree, containing some of the material found that has enabled us to reconstruct how the 7th Century church may have looked.

The display unit in the north aisle of the parish church

In additional to digital imagery, we also commissioned painted reconstructions from archaeological illustrator Dominic Andrews of Archaeoart. He has created two wonderful illustrations, bringing life to the interior of the church, and putting the church into the context of the monastery, with the shrine of St Eadburg nearby, as it may have looked around the year 800.

Reconstruction of the interior of the 7th century church at Lyminge, Kent c800 (© Dominic Andrews – www,archaeoart.co.uk)

Archaeological reconstruction of the Anglo-Saxon monastery in Lyminge, Kent c800 (© Dominic Andrews – http://www.archaeoart.co.uk)

In a report commissioned for the project, Historic England described the church site at Lyminge as of “outstanding importance”.   John Blair, Professor of Medieval History and Archaeology at the University of Oxford has described the Anglo-Saxon church as “among the most important early Anglo-Saxon church remains ever excavated in southern England“.   We faced quite a challenge for our project to measure up to this level of significance. Working with Dominic Andrews and the CSCC has allowed us to bring Ethelburga’s church to life and underline its international importance as as a cradle of Christianity in Southern England and one of the first stone buildings built after the end of the Roman period. We believe that our work to reconstruct the church site virtually and imagine how it may have looked have made it possible for people to understand the site and visualise it in a way that fully lives up to its great importance.

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