Online Editions

2nd Jul, 2022

Technology unlocking secrets of chapel's medieval past

Ian Hughes 18th Mar, 2019

TECHNOLOGY is unlocking a window to the past at Stratford’s Guild Chapel – allowing visitors to see the building and its paintings in all their medieval glory for the first time in almost 500 years.

It’s all possible thanks to a new app which offers a virtual reality view of how the chapel would have looked when its walls were a riot of colour and religious imagery in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Funded by the will of Hugh Clopton, wealthy local benefactor and Lord Mayor of London, the paintings were applied in the late 15th century, covering every wall within the chapel, which sits on the corner of Church Street and Chapel Lane.

The imagery was bright and bold – depicting the saints, the gates of heaven and the mouth of hell, and stark reflections on the afterlife, all designed to remind worshippers of their mortality and reinforce the religious beliefs being preached.

When these images were banned following the English Reformation, records show John Shakespeare, father of the playwright, acted on royal orders to destroy them – authorising payment for their covering up in 1563.

Centuries later, many of these paintings were found preserved under the layers of limewash applied.

After recent conservation work, some can be seen today such as the large ornate scene of the ‘Doom’ or ‘Judgement Day’ found over the chancel arch.

But where others have been lost, or where only fragmentary remains have been found, the new app is utilising new technology of augmented reality to fill in the missing pieces.

It allows visitors to stand in the chapel and see the lost paintings reappear on screen – using the drawings of Thomas Fisher who documented them when they were discovered in 1804.

It means that for the first time in centuries people can now stand in the chancel and view the Legend of the Holy Cross which was subsequently lost forever – or point the iPad at the wooden panelling currently concealing the fragmentary remains of the Dance of Death and see how it would have once looked.

“That’s something quite incredible,” said Pippa Brook from the Guild Chapel.

“And what’s really important is the fact the app only recreates the paintings that were uncovered and recorded in the 19th Century, it’s not just guesswork or any work of fiction, it’s a true look back at the past.”

The app and accompanying iPad have been funded by the University of York, whose research on the Guild Chapel underpinned its 2016 wall painting conservation work which is now part of an extended ongoing project.

Dr Kate Giles, of the University of York, said: “This app not only presents the results of current research but raises important new questions about other paintings still hidden behind the panelling in the chapel.”

Visitors are welcome to drop-in and try the app – available when the Guild Chapel is manned by volunteer guides.

It will also be available at a series of ‘Timed Talks’ happening at 11am on the first Saturday and third Tuesday of each month, from April to September.

The chapel is open daily, free of charge with donations welcomed.

Visit for further details.


Book an Advert

Book your newspaper advert with our online advert creation tool.


Find a career you'll love with our free career finder website.

Digital Advertising

Advertise on the Stratford Observer to boost your online presence.

Public Notices

View and download all of the public notices in the Stratford Observer.