‘Hryre’ (the word for ‘ruin’ in Old English) was created to explore the medieval heritage of Chester, particularly St John’s Church. It draws on the research of the ‘Mapping Medieval Chester’ and is a part of a ‘Discover Medieval Chester’ project both funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Arts & Festivals team in partnership with Museum Service, Street Lighting and Chester Renaissance commissioned the artist Nayan Kulkarni to produce the artwork. The artwork was funded by Cheshire West and Chester Council, Chester Renaissance and AHRC. Between October 2011 and March 2012 the ruins were illuminated using a series of texts developed through consultations and to allow time to consider the content and form of the emerging artwork and respond to public feedback.

Some of the texts make direct reference to memory and loss. However, themes of renewal and rebirth are also prominent in the selected fragments. The permanent artwork makes stronger biblical references whilst retaining its poetical references to ideas of time and tide. The experience of the illumination is akin to a form of remembering in light. Like a palimpsest, the texts appear as a form of writing rather than projection. Finally, the
artwork is underpinned by the idea of light as a form of solace, consolation and liberation.

The installation is formed of sixteen LED projector systems mounted on modified poles. Four of the lights are used to model the ruins. These lights create the dynamism of light and darkness that the artwork depends on. The remaining twelve lights form the basis through which the texts are projected across the ruins. To create the images, specially fabricated glass slides are focussed on the architectural fragments using cinema lenses. The slides take two forms. The first are a series of tracings from the original manuscripts. The second group contain key words or phrases that have been extracted from the manuscripts and made into images using a verified font. Thus the artwork reveals the source and the fragments of text.

The program uses Easter as its harmonic fulcrum. This relates to Nayan’s ongoing interest in Bede’s scientific observations of tide cycles and his important work in ecclesiastical calendars. This is exemplified in Maredudd ap Rhys’s poem referring to the rood arriving on a tide, ‘Llanw a′i dug dduw Llun I dir’ (a tide brought it on a Monday to the land).

The projection system was designed by Nayan Kulkarni and Scottish engineer Duncan Turner of Carbon Lighting Ltd. Jamie Craig contributed to the electronics and optimisation.

Light 1

Lasar o fol ddaear dud

Translation – Lazarus from the belly of the black earth

Light 2


Translation – Tide

Light 3/4

Archaf am dref Gaer a’i maer a’i mach
oerchwedl i’r dinas mewn dwfr bas bach,
i wehydd, i grydd, o grach – i erddyrn,
i’w hesgyrn cedyrn ym mhob cadach,

i ieuanc, I hen, nid amgenach,
i Gaer Lleon Gawr, i fawr, i fach,
i wraig, I forwyn, i wrach-i siopwr,
i ŵr, i glerwr ac i gleiriach.

O mynasant fy na mewn nawsach,
naw ugain mintai o gŵn mantach,
mynnwn pe’u gwelwn yn gulach – o dda
ym Moel-y-Wyddfa neu ym Mleddfach.

y dwfr a’u boddo tra fo tref iach,
y tân a’u llosgo pe baent Ilesgach,
yr awel a’u gwnêl gan niwlach – gwinau,
ond yr eglwysau yn dir glasach.

Translation –
From the town of Chester and her mayor and guarantor, I seek
vengeance on the city in its shallow little water,
on a weaver, on a shoemaker from scabs to wrists,
on their strong bones in every piece of clothing,

on the young, on the old, no exceptions,
on Chester the Giant, on the great and the small,
on a wife, on a maiden on an old women, on a shop-keeper,
on a man, on a wandering poet and on a decrepit old man.

Since they appropriated my goods in nine sacks,
those nine times twenty troops of toothless dogs,
I could appropriate, if only I could see more keenly, all the goods
in Moel-y-Wyddfa or Bleddfach.

If only the water would drown them while the town stays safe,
the fire burn them if they are too slow,
the air cause them to have fog and cloud,
but let the churches stay in a greener land.

Light 5

ond yr eglwysau yn dir glasach.

Translation – but let the churches stay in a greener land.

Light 6

Alas, great heuynes it was to behold
The cite of Troye all flamyng as fire:
More pite of Rome cite was manyfolde,
Feruently flagrant / empeiryng the empire:
As to quantite, the cite of Chestire
Myght be assembled this tyme in like case
To the sayd citees, remedeles, alas!
heaviness, misery
In terms of the scale (of the fire)
Might at this time resemble a similar situation
without remedy

Light 7


Translation – Troy

Light 8

velut Hercules actus

Translation – like a deed of Hercules.

Light 9

sullimiter emigrare

Translation – escape without limit

Light 10

Tempestas docet quid tranqillitas donet

Translation – a storm teaches what calm weather can grant

Light 11

Fateor eo die differenter ac uarie temporis tractus ef-
fluxit: castellum tedio, set ecclesia solatio fuit

Translation – I must admit that time passed that day in a variety of ways: the castle was a nuisance, but the church was a consolation

Light 12


Translation – solace

I am indebted to the contributors to the booklet Hryre (ruin) produced in 2012 in conjunction with the illuminations project and is the copyright of Nayan Kulkarni. It was necessary for me to follow the text very closely in parts so as not to corrupt the information or at worst provide an alternative, but erroneous, interpretation of the illuminations.

Simon Oliver