A Shakespeare Connected exhibition co-curated by Kate Giles, University of York and the volunteers of the Guild Chapel, Stratford-upon-Avon.
The Guild Chapel lies at the heart of Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon and many of the records associated with it - from medieval guild records to Antiquarian sources and even sculptures - form part of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s collection.
Part of the complex of buildings created by the medieval guild of the Holy Cross, the chapel was rebuilt in the 15th century and decorated with a remarkable scheme of wall paintings, united by themes of the inevitability of death and Final Judgement. At the Reformation, it may have fallen for a time into disuse. This might explain why it was only in 1563/4 and 1564/5 that John Shakespeare as chamberlain was involved in ‘defacing’ the images and removing the rood loft from the chapel as it was brought back into use. Some of its medieval paintings may have survived as late as 1576 and 1635, raising the tantalizing possibility that they may have been seen by – and inspired - the young William Shakespeare. Themes of the frailty of the human body, inevitability of death and judgement pervade his work, as indeed, do reflections on the ‘unswept stones’, ‘bare ruined choirs’ and ‘relics of the town’.
With thanks to the Museums and Universities Partnership Initiative (an Arts Council funded project).