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Medieval monastery found under English garage

medieval friary

Cotswold Archaeology | Twitter | Fair Use

J-P Mauro - published on 10/22/20

Experts believe they have located the last of the five great monasteries of Gloucester.

What began as a project to redevelop the King’s Quarter of Gloucester, England, has turned into a full-scale archaeological excavation, after construction workers discovered indicators that a medieval structure existed beneath a multi-level parking garage. The site is believed to have been the home to the Whitefriars, a monastic community that arose from the Carmelites in the 13th century.

The Order of Carmelites was developed in the Middle East around the 13th century on Mount Carmel. The order made its way to England with the return of the Crusaders, at which time it was developed further into orders of friars, most commonly named for the colors of their robes (i.e. Whitefriars, Blackfriars, Greyfriars). There were, at their peak, 40 communities of Carmelites in England, until the majority of them were destroyed in the Dissolution of Monastaries in the 1530s.

In March 2019, Gloucester Live reported that experts suggested that this could be the elusive site of the Whitefriars’ priory when a medieval-era clay floor was discovered under the garage. Since then, Smithsonian Magazine says,researchers have unearthed the remains of four large buildings, with stone walls up to three feet thick. Along with some tiled floors and a medieval drain, these ruins are believed to have all been part of the monastic compound.

In a report from BBC, City archaeologist Andrew Armstrong noted that experts had long suspected the monastery to be located somewhere around the King’s Quarter; however, the site had never been pinpointed. Armstrong said:

“For around 300 years, Whitefriars played an active part in Gloucester and produced some notable friars, including Nicholas Cantelow (or Cantilupe) in the 15th century.” He added, “Seeing and documenting this site will serve to underline, and recognize, the place of the friary in the city’s history.”

In a more recent article from Gloucester Live, the local publication notes that if this is indeed the Whitefriars residence, then it is the last of the five great medieval monasteries of Gloucester to be discovered. The other four are the Blackfriars, Greyfriars, St. Oswald’s Priory and Llanthony Secunda Priory on Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, but experts have known the locations of these sites for years.

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