Renovation efforts to repair the crumbling floors at Bath Abbey, in the English town of Bath, have offered experts the opportunity to excavate the area below the structure, where they have found a wealth of historically relevant artifacts and architecture. The work has brought to life the storied history of one of England’s most famous cathedrals.
The modern Bath Abbey stands on the site where one of the largest medieval cathedrals in England once loomed over the landscape. The current iteration of the structure stands atop the remains of the Anglo-Norman cathedral that preceded it, but its history does not begin with the Normans, but with the Roman-influenced Saxons.
Current Archaeology explains, in their report of the dig, that at its inception the site was home to a 7th-century community of “holy virgins,” who may have cared for the property alongside a male religious community — as was the practice of the time. Evidence also suggests, however, that the male community may have arisen as a natural change, for instance if the female order could not replenish their numbers.
In the 8th century, the building came under ownership of the King of Mercia, and the property was converted to something of a royal manor. At some point in the next 200 years, however, the property was converted back to a church building, as King Edgar chose the Bath Cathedral for his coronation, in 973.
Evidence from the 10th century suggests that this era was marked by a thriving religious community. The finds included expertly crafted masonry designs and an extensive cemetery. Among the graves, excavators found two rare examples of a burial process that would cover the body or coffin in charcoal.