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'Our best guess at Greyfriars'

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Academics have unveiled a digital recreation of the long-lost friary where the remains of Richard III were found.

Greyfriars was demolished in the 1530s and had been largely forgotten until excavations by the University of Leicester seeking the remains of England's last Plantagenet king.

Now, however, staff at De Montfort University have produced a series of images showing how the building, dating back to the 13th century, may have appeared.

A team has used some archeological evidence published by the University of Leicester, a speculative image in a historian's book and examples of other Franciscan friaries to come up with a "best educated guess" about how the church would have looked.

They have also placed it within the surrounding present-day buildings.

As well as the prize discovery of Richard's body, archaeologists found fragments of masonry, glass and tiles from the friary. The discoveries have informed the recreation.

Dr Douglas Cawthorne, from De Montfort University's digital building heritage group, said: "There was great interest in the remains of Richard III, but the church in which he was found is an important part of his story and one that has been a little bit overlooked.

"We wanted people to see an interpretation of what it would have looked like.

"It helps create a mental map for observers and helps people understand how this lost building relates to the city they can see today.

"There will be discussion and debate about how close we have got to it, but it's probable that that's what it looked like.

"The great thing about the Franciscans is that, like the Roman army, they built everything the same.

"There are a number of other Franciscan churches that still exist. Though they are mostly ruinous, they give us a good clue for Greyfriars."

The church was destroyed during the Reformation in the reign of Henry VIII, who split England from the Catholic Church in Rome because it would not approve the annulment of his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Across England, monasteries were closed, looted and demolished by the King's officers. In many cases, masonry was recycled and used for new buildings.

PhD student Asem al Bunni, 29, has recreated Greyfriars' nave, choir and steeple, using specialist software.

He said: "I hope people will be interested in the interpretation we have come up with. In part, it is based on an elevation in John Ashdown-Hill's book The Last Days of Richard III.

"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."

There are plans to digitally recreate other parts of the Greyfriars complex such as the Great Cloister, guest house, chapter house and the dormitories where the monks slept.

'Our best guess at Greyfriars'


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