A 12th century candlestick with a long and fascinating history is now returning to its original home in Gloucester, England accompanied by a 3D printed replica. The original artefact, aptly known as the Gloucester Candlestick, is making the journey from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, where it has been housed since 1861. The 3D printed replica, which will be display in the Gloucester Cathedral, was produced in collaboration with UK-based metal AM specialist Renishaw.
The Gloucester Candlestick dates back to about 1110 when it was commissioned by Abbot Peter for the Church of St Peter of Gloucester. The ornate piece, which is gilded in copper, is embellished with several creatures, which are said to represent the struggle of vice and virtue. The candlestick is also inscribed with the words: “The devotion of Abbot Peter and his gentle flock gave me to the Church of St Peter of Gloucester.”
Despite being made for St Peter’s Abbey, the candlestick was only actually there for about a decade. That is, when a fire destroyed much of the abbey in the year 1122, the candlestick went missing, possibly taken by looters. The famed piece did eventually turn up at Le Mans Cathedral in France, where it stayed before being sold to the V&A in 1861.
As one might imagine, the city of Gloucester is eager to have the artefact returned. “It’s been so long away from us, and been through such trials whilst it’s been away as well,” Rebecca Phillips, Gloucester Cathedral archivist, told BBC. “Who knows what it went through during the French revolution? It’s lovely to have it back, and also it’s now accessible to anyone of faith and no faith as well. The beauty of it is just gorgeous.”
The original candlestick now has a match: a replica produced by Renishaw using 3D scanning and metal 3D printing technologies. Printed from aluminum powder, the candlestick replica was finished by hand for high quality details and a gold patina was applied at a local foundry.
“I can see this technology being used a lot more for this type of work – replicating parts that are valuable and that you can let people touch,” added Paul Govan, Customer Training Manager at Renishaw. Indeed, 3D printing is being increasingly used as a tool by cultural conservationists. For instance, researchers from Oxford University in England are using 3D printing to replicate historical instruments to be played.
At the Gloucester Cathedral, the original 12th century candlestick will be housed in the treasury, while the 3D printed replica will remain on display for all to see in the gallery chapel.