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DMU re-creates Richard III's long-lost friary

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SCALE: Greyfriars Priory

The friary in which Richard III’s body was buried has been digitally re-created more than 500 years after it was razed to the ground.

A De Montfort University PhD |student has come up with a possible design of what Greyfriars church in Leicester city centre looked like before it was destroyed during the Reformation.

Asem Al Bunni put together the images after studying historian John Ashdown-Hill’s book Last Days of Richard III, plus examples of the remains of other Franciscan priories such as Litchfield and Walsingham.

The church was a Franciscan Priory and was thought to have been called St Mary Magdalene’s, which belonged to the order and society known as Greyfriars.

It hit the headlines after the remains of Richard III were discovered in what was Greyfriars – now a council car park - by the University of Leicester and the Richard III Society earlier this year.

Excavations have revealed some of the foundations and buried fragments of masonry, glass, tile and other material.

Mr Al Bunni’s digital reconstruction of the nave, choir and steeple allows people to get an idea of how large the church would have been in Leicester – a possible indication of its importance in the city at that time.

He said: “I hope people will be interested in the interpretation we have come up with. When you see it among the buildings today, it is clear how large the church was.

“I really enjoyed doing it and there is more to do.”

Critical discussion and further research work is now being carried out on what parts of the friary may have looked like – such as the great cloister, guest house, chapter house and dormitories.

Dr Douglas Cawthorne, principal lecturer within the School of Architecture and leader of DMU’s Digital Building Heritage team|, said the re-creation was important in helping to tell the Greyfriars story.

He said: “In this respect one of the initial things that strikes you about the building is its size. This was not a small church. It would have towered over the contemporary medieval buildings in the area in a way which is perhaps underappreciated and would also dominate those adjacent to it today.

“There is much more to discover about the design of Greyfriars church in Leicester and it’s a fascinating architectural piece in the historical mosaic of an important part of English history.”

DMU has another connection to the Richard III story. Historians believe that his remains were placed in another church before burial, St Mary-in-the-Newarke, a part of which can still be seen in the ground floor of De Montfort University’s Hawthorn building.

It is speculated that Richard’s body may have been on display in the Newarke on a kind of hurdle or stretcher, possibly partly covered by a cloth, for two days immediately after the battle and before the morning of the 25th August 1485 when his body was eventually taken to Greyfriars Church.

Dr Cawthorne added: “If this was the case then it is perhaps in the story of Richard III’s body lying at St. Mary-in-the-Newarke, immediately after the Battle of Bosworth and those who came to see it and why, their motivations and reactions where the real human drama of the burial of Richard the III lies.

“The vanished architecture of St. Mary-in-the-Newarke that provided the backdrop to that potentially dramatic and very public historical event is clearly important in telling the greater story of Richard III and indeed of this period in the City of Leicester’s history.”

More information about Richard III in Leicester can be found on the Visit Leicester website|.

Posted on Monday 20th May 2013

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