Scientists reconstruct the face of a Medieval monk – and he looks just like Wayne Rooney


At first glance at this image, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it as a photo of Wayne Rooney.

But the face is actually a reconstruction of Abbot John of Wheathampstead – a Medieval monk who played a central role in England’s history during the 1400s.

The reconstruction was funded by the Friends of St Albans Cathedral and was carried out by Professor Caroline Wilkinson from FaceLab.

The Very Reverend Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, said: “The reconstruction of Abbot John of Wheathampstead’s face brings him startlingly to life, and immediately invites us to read his character from his features.

“He has an impish look, but also looks like a man who was not to be trifled with – as befits one of the most powerful ecclesiastical fixers of his day.

“I hope that seeing him in his human reality will raise interest in his life, and in the central role St Albans Abbey has played in this country’s history.”

To reconstruct his face, Professor Wilkinson analysed his skeletal remains, as well as biographical information on his age, lifestyle and underlying health.

Professor James G Clark, from the University of Exeter, said: “Anatomical knowledge alone cannot determine individual features such as eye or hair colour and efforts to resolve these by drawing on genetic data in samples of such age and states of decay remain experimental.

“The wealth of biographical detail about Abbot John has helped to fill some of these gaps. Even in his prime he was renowned for his florid complexion, unkindly described as ‘girlish blushing’. From his fifties onwards he suffered chronic ill health, reportedly in spleen, kidneys, liver and stomach. He walked only with the aid of a stick.”

Abbot John’s remains were unearthed at St Albans Cathedral in 2017, 552 years after his death.

His skeleton was discovered alongside three papal bulls – a type of public charter issued by a pontiff – that Pope Martin V had given him 40 years ago.

According to the experts, this confirms the papal privileges he gained in 1423. 

Professor Clark added: “The arresting character of his face, its age, colour and wear-and-tear, is a valuable reminder that those that created and cared for these remarkable buildings are remote from us only in time; in spirit, and surely by sight, they were very much like ourselves.”


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