- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2008

LONDON (AP) Fix the grave site. But don’t touch the bones. That’s the work order, in a nutshell, for brave architects contemplating a fix-up job for the deteriorating grave site of William Shakespeare at the Holy Trinity Church in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon.

The illustrious Bard is believed by many to have personally penned the threat on a stone marker above his grave: It promises to bless anyone who spares the stones but curse any intruder who moves his bones.

That’s all well and good, but the stones above his grave are starting to flake and fall apart. Clergymen have trod on the stones for nearly four centuries, and the foot traffic is taking its inevitable toll.

People who love the church and its place in British literary history want to fix it - provided they can do so without digging up Shakespeare’s remains and facing the mysterious threat.

“We’re avoiding the curse,” says Josephine Walker, a spokeswoman for the group Friends of Shakespeare’s Church. “We are not lifting the stones; we are not looking underneath; and the curse is for the bones underneath, so the curse is irrelevant for this work.”

The restoration work is delicate because the church northwest of London is not only a functional house of worship where Shakespeare was baptized in 1564 but also a treasure popular with visitors from around the globe.

“We get 100,000 tourists a year, but they don’t walk on the stones,” Miss Walker says. “But the clergy have to when they give Communion, and the stones are flaking away; the surfaces are coming off. We want to clean the surfaces and then very gradually ease in some transparent grout and hold the surfaces together. Then we want to move the altar rail so that when the clergy give Communion they don’t have to walk over the stones.”

The planned work on the grave site, which has not yet been approved by the various agencies that oversee historic sites, is part of a much larger restoration of the church that began two years ago, Miss Walker says.

The group is trying to raise an additional $8 million for the entire project, she adds. One of the most urgent tasks is to repair the main nave windows, which are in very poor shape.

“The metalwork is eroding and disintegrating,” Miss Walker says. “That’s a really big, major job that has to be done, hopefully next year.”

At least they don’t face a centuries-old curse if they repair the windows.

If they get the money and the approvals, they can do the work without worrying about angering the Bard’s ghost.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide