BY TRACY-JO SMITH
BRITAIN'S largest surviving medieval altarpiece has returned to a church after an eight-year restoration.
The 12ft-wide Thornham Parva Retable, which was lost for almost 150 years until it was discovered in a loft over a stable in 1927, is now back on display in the thatched village Church of St Mary, Thornham Parva, near Diss, Suffolk.
The restoration work has cost £.130,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, £65,000 from English Heritage, £30,000 raised by the Thomham Parva Parochial Church Council, Suffolk, and £15,000 from the Council for the Care of Churches.
Thought to have been created by a Norwich workshop in the 1330s, the altarpiece depicts the Crucifixion with figures of the Virgin and St John flanked by eight panel paintings of saints, set on a striking gilt background. The altarpiece was saved from destruction by the Duke of Norfolk's family when Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the monasteries in the early 16th century.
The figure of the local saint Edmund, after whom Bury St Edmunds is named, is particularly prominent in the altarpiece.