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The reconstructed face of an archbishop who was beheaded in the 14th century

The skull of Simon of Sudbury.

The skull of Simon of Sudbury.

Simon of Sudbury (ca. 1316-14 June 1381) was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1375 to 1380, crowned King Richard II in 1377, and was the Lord Chancellor of England from 1380-1381. He became extremely unpopular because the lower classes believed he was responsible for the third Poll Tax. Simon of Sudbury was so disliked that he was violently killed during the Peasants’ Revolt, or the Great Uprising of 1381.

On June 14th 1381 rebels stormed the Tower of London grabbed Simon of Sudbury and dragged him to Tower Hill, where they beheaded him. His body was buried at Canterbury Cathedral, but his head was placed on a spike on Tower Bridge. Some people believe that when a man from Sudbury saw the Lord Chancellor’s head on a spike he took it in the middle of the night and brought it back to his hometown.

The partially mummified skull of Simon of Sudbury has resided at St Gregory’s Church at Sudbury in Suffolk for the last 630 years. In 2010 the church curator, Rev Jenny Seggar, and a local school worker, Ian Copeman decided to reconstruct Simon of Sudbury’s face so they contacted the University of Dundee. Adrienne Barker, a student at Dundee University’s Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification, agreed to the project as part of her MSc program.

The skull was brought to the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds for CT scans, then casts were made using the CT data. After Barker determined the skull’s sex, age, and ancestry, she used the information to sculpt muscles and skin on the cast of the skull. The whole process took about year and the results were revealed in 2011.

Simon of Sudbury’s face reconstructed by Adrienne Barker.

“There was a gasp when people saw what he looked like as his sculpture was unveiled. He was compared to characters such as Spock and Shrek, and some were surprised by the size of him. Indeed, he is quite a big guy,” Adrienne Barker from the told Discovery News.

The original skull and the 3D model is on permanent display at St. Gregory’s Church at Sudbury in Suffolk. Adrienne Barker created a website detailing the process of the facial reconstruction.


Lorenzi, R. (2011 October 3). Beheaded Archbishop’s Face Revealed. Retrieved on April 1, 2014 from:

Thornhill, T. (2011 September 14). Good heavens, it’s the Archbishop! Face of a 14th-century cleric revealed thanks to advanced computer modeling. Retrieved on April 1, 2014 from:

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