Stone Conservation in the Bishop’s Garden

September 21, 2022

The design of the Bishop’s Garden incorporates plants of historical interest and plants of the Bible and Christian legends.

Bas relief panels in the upper wall of the Bishop’s Garden

Medieval sculpture serve as focal points and backdrops to the Bishop’s Garden’s plantings. The garden was completed in 1928, and in 2013 it was rededicated following a major restoration and replanting. In 2018 All Hallows Guild began to address the preservation of the Bishop’s Garden’s Medieval stonework – which displayed significant deterioration due to decades of exposure to the elements.

The Next Phase of Stonework Conservation

The focus of the latest phase of stonework conservation will be the Bishop’s Garden’s Norman Court and Norman Arch. All Hallows Guild has engaged McKay Lodge Laboratory, specialists in Fine Art Conservation. They commenced work on Wednesday, September 14, 2022 and it is anticipated to continue through late October under the direction of Marcin Pikus of McKay Lodge. 

The Norman Court was designed by Florence Bratenahl and completed in 1928. The Norman arch, from a 12th century ruined monastery in France, is made of Caen limestone. The arch, along with the 15th century bas-relief inside the court, were acquired from the collection of George Grey Barnard, whose collection formed the basis of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Cloisters in New York City.

An Unfortunate Discovery

The Wayside Cross was damaged due to vandalism

On Wednesday, September 14, 2022 the Cathedral’s Mason Foreman, Joe Alonso and Marcin Pikus of McKay Lodge met to assess damage discovered on the Wayside Cross – which stands near the center of the Bishop’s Garden. They determined that the stone cross had suffered from vandalism – with significant cracking near the base. Temporary protection and stabilization has been installed around the cross. It will remain in the garden until later in September when the Cathedral’s stonemasons will transport it to their workspace. It is fortunate that we have the expertise of our stonemasons and conservationists at hand and that the damage was discovered before more destruction occurred.

The Wayside Cross in 2020

The Earlier Phase of Stonework Conservation

The conservation work done in October 2018 included five granite bas relief panels and the Carolingian Baptismal Font. McKay Lodge assessed the condition of the reliefs as fair to poor with degradation of the original surface and the details of the carvings reduced due to water, changing thermal conditions, and microbiological growth. The condition of the Font was also poor with a considerable degree of deterioration. Following the conservation work the artifacts were not only improved in their appearance, but also stabilized and guarded from on-going decay. If you would like to read more about the 2018 stonework restoration CLICK HERE.

In our role as stewards to the Cathedral’s gardens and grounds, All Hallows Guild remains committed to preserving these precious artifacts so that they continue to grace the Bishop’s Gardens in the decades to come. 


All Hallows Guild was founded in 1916 to provide for the care and beautification of the grounds of Washington National Cathedral. The Guild works closely with the horticultural staff to preserve this historic landscape and raises funds for renovation and renewal of the gardens.


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