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You are here: Home » Highlight of the Week » Medieval stone masons and this year’s stone festival.

Medieval stone masons and this year’s stone festival.

Posted on April 9th, 2013 | 0 Comments

Maria Hegland, a journalism student at the University of Lincoln, has found out something fascinating about a medieval stonemason:

In medieval times stonemasons challenged the foul weather and sailed across the North Sea from Norway to England. In the 1140’s a young Norwegian known as Crossmaster was in apprenticeship at Lincoln Cathedral in England. One hundred years later an English mason was responsible for building pillars in Nidaros Cathedral in Norway. Nowadays, about 800 years later, masons still travel across the sea to participate the building, just like their forefathers did.

After finding out that Lincoln Cathedral has a connection to a cathedral in Norway, Carol Heidschuster, the works manager at Lincoln Cathedral, wanted to travel to Norway herself to take a look at what she had heard so much about.

Last year she got the opportunity to go to Trondheim where the cathedral lies and she found what she was looking for. “I particularly wanted to see our west front compared to their west front. I took lots of pictures to set the two cathedrals against each other and I could see the similarities,” Carol says with excitement.

She explains: “We are trying to reintroduce that medieval connection between the two buildings. I personally wanted to reintroduce the working connection from when the cathedrals were built. We have had a couple of visits from the chief executive of Nidaros over the last ten years, and we have sort of kept in contact. We like the fact that masons from Nidaros are leaving their marks in our cathedral and we are doing the same over there. There is still quite a strong link.”

Carol describes how they found the link between the two cathedrals: “We know when a mason has made a stone. Each mason has his, or her, own unique mark. The mark is a symbol that is made on the inside of the each stone they carve.”

Norwegian masons’ marks were found in Lincoln Cathedral and the conclusion that Norwegians made the Trondheim piers was proved. English masons’ marks were discovered in Nidaros Cathedral. In Lincoln Cathedral’s history it says that the marks were the same and came from the same man.

Two piers carved in a style that is only to be found in Lincoln Cathedral were then found in Nidaros. This indicates without doubt that experienced cutters from Lincoln took part in the building of the Norwegian cathedral.

The Trondheim piers are placed in Lincoln Cathedral in North and South Aisle, and there are pillars of a similar design in Nidaros. An English mason was responsible for both sets of pillars and sailed the North Sea in the 13th century. The same mason frequently travelled from one job to another, say historians.

When Carol visited Trondheim she found similarities between the two cities as well as between the two cathedrals. All the small shops and the nice little shopping areas just up from the cathedral, seemed for her like a close community to Lincoln. She says: “I thought there was this same sort of feeling to the city.”

She continues: “Over the last three or four years, we have tried to establish the connection we found. Two years ago we had a 1,000 years craft event, a joint event with the Lincoln Castle. Some of the masons from Nidaros came over to the event, and one of them stayed here to work with us in our workshops for three weeks.”

As Carol is responsible for the day-to-day running of the works department, she has responsibility for all of the conservation and the repair work on the cathedral. Carol has spent 25 years of her life working for the cathedral, all years in the works department.

“I have never lived more than 30 miles away from my place of birth, I am a Lincolnshire person. Because of this, I have a strong connection to the cathedral.”

Nearly every year, for the last 14 years, the European Stone Festival has been held. Last year the festival was held in Trondheim. Carol says: “For me it gave me the ideal opportunity to go over there last year. I wanted to do some research to see how it all worked over there, what they did and if we needed to do something different.”

She went over to Norway with two of the masons working at Lincoln Cathedral. The masons stayed after the festival and worked with the masons from Nidaros for two weeks. According to Carol the festival is where like-minded people come together to work and learn from each other.

“Masons meeting up and sharing skills goes back to medieval times. Masons in generations have travelled from place to place to learn different skills, practices and how to chop in different kinds of stone. Over the years this evolved into the festival,” she says.

The festival is going to be held in Lincoln in June this year. Carol says 20 masons are registered at this point, but the advertising for the festival has not really started yet. [The number registered has now reached 120.] Usually, there are about 140 masons from all over Europe taking part in the event.

“We have been waiting a long time to get it here to Lincoln and hopefully some of the masons from Nidaros will come over and participate in the festival,” Carol says with a hopeful smile.

Then she adds: “The connection between the two cathedrals is important history, and from the works department’s point of view, sharing our skills is valuable. It is utterly important to feel reconnected with the link that is here.”

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