I was quite amazed to find out last week, when visiting Leicester Cathedral, that the small coat of arms that can be seen on the front part of the tomb was made by a skilled craftsman called Thomas Greenaway, who is one of only a handful of people who use the 16th Century craft of Pietra Dura (Italian for ‘hard stone’). This is a highly specialised way of making a picture by a method that is a kind of cross between a jigsaw puzzle and a mosaic. It originated in Florence and is still taught there today. The shield is not painted or made out of some plastic material, but is composed from three hundred and fifty small pieces of semi-precious stones – in this case Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan, Duke’s Red limestone from Derbyshire (which is very rare) and Yellow Chalcedony from Italy. Each lion is composed of twenty pieces of stone and the claws are Lapis Lazuli. All the pieces are precisely cut to shape and fitted using traditional sixteenth century techniques and the Coat of Arms took two months to complete. Click on the picture below to visit Thomas Greenaway’s site to find out more.
There is a great five minute video of how the tomb was carved, polished, moved and laid, including the making of the Coat of Arms here.
Thanks to Thomas Greenaway for permission to use this picture of the shield.