Visitors to Winchester Cathedral will find numerous commemorations to deceased individuals who have been entombed there. Their final resting places are decorated in many different ways, from incised grave slabs of stone to monumental latten brasses. Yet perhaps some of the most memorable forms of funerary art are the three-dimensional sculpted marble figures that are scattered across the Cathedral, in various positions of prominence.

Also known as ‘recumbent effigies’ or ‘tomb effigies’, these handcrafted reliefs have been used since the twelfth century, across Western and Central Europe, as a way to represent the dead whilst they await for resurrection. One particular tomb stands out, this being the early fourteenth century military effigy of Arnaud de Gabaston (d.1302), a knight from Gascony and the father of infamous royal favourite, Piers Gaveston. The tomb effigy, which was originally located next to the Holy Sepulchre Chapel, can now be viewed on the north side of the Retrochoir. Gabaston lies recumbent, with his feet resting against the belly of a lion.

In recent months, Joshua S. Ralph, a medieval history student from the University of Winchester, has been engaged in extensive research into Arnaud de Gabaston. With the help of fellow students from the University of Winchester Arms & Armour Society, Joshua has completed a number of detailed analytical, conditional and dimensional surveys upon the tomb’s various medieval components. The purpose of this comprehensive survey, begun in November 2022, is to record measurements and details of the military equipment displayed upon the effigy. The work is, by necessity, painstaking and meticulous, but from these measurements, the team will be in a much better position to assess how realistic these depictions are and how sources such as Gabaston’s effigy can help us to understand medieval arms and armour.

The data collected and compiled from the survey will be included within Joshua’s journal article, set to be released in 2024, and form a key part of the Society’s ongoing project to analyse secular military effigies.