Who is 'I.I.G'? Mystery medieval inscription uncovered in Norfolk church

The initials 'I.I.G' on the stone

The initials 'I.I.G' were probably inscribed onto the stone when it was repurposed as a grave slab in the church floor during the Reformation period. - Credit: Noah Vickers

A medieval stone bearing a mysterious, centuries-old inscription has been discovered in a Norfolk church.

Reverend Paul Cubitt uncovered the stone hidden in the altar of Dereham’s St Nicholas Church. 

The Revd Canon Paul Cubitt and his wife Clare. Picture: Dereham and District Team Ministry

The Revd Canon Paul Cubitt and his wife Clare. Picture: Dereham and District Team Ministry - Credit: Archant

“Being curious,” said Revd. Cubitt, “I was poking around one day and noticed that there was a large plywood panel on the back of the table.” 

One of the five marks of Christ, which would have been etched into the stone for its suspected original use as the...

One of the five marks of Christ, which would have been etched into the stone for its suspected original use as the church's pre-Reformation altar stone. - Credit: Noah Vickers

Removing the panel revealed the stone, with the initials ‘I.I.G’ at the top and three crosses lower down. Revd. Cubitt believes that the stone was at one point larger and had five crosses to indicate the five marks of Christ. 

When English churches belonged to the Church of Rome, every church had a stone of similar kind that rested on the altar. 

The stone seen with one of the five marks of Christ and the initials 'I.I.G.'

The long-lost identity of 'I.I.G' remains unclear. - Credit: Noah Vickers


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“In the Reformation, these got broken up and taken away, so it has to belong to the pre-Reformation period. The lettering would have come later, when it was likely repurposed as a gravestone.” said Revd Cubitt.

The identity of ‘I.I.G.’ remains unclear, and in the late medieval period, the letter ‘i’ was often used interchangeably with ‘j’. 

The stone seen from above.

The stone seen from above. - Credit: Noah Vickers

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Tantalisingly, a former rector of St Nicholas in 1479 was named John Goose - but he would have died decades before the stone was taken out of the old altar, making it unlikely that the stone was repurposed to mark his grave. 

St Nicholas Church in Dereham, where the stone was discovered

St Nicholas Church in Dereham, where the stone was discovered. - Credit: Noah Vickers

Whomever it served as a gravestone to, it would probably have been embedded in the church floor, before being brought up again centuries later, and put back into the altar table at an unknown point. 

“We can’t work out when [the stone was brought out of the floor],” said Revd Cubitt, “but we do know the floor was re-laid in the late 80s, in the nave.” 

The stone seen from above and behind the altar

The stone seen from above and behind the altar - Credit: Noah Vickers

A report on the stone by Stephen Heywood, an authority on architectural history, recommends “that the stone is removed from its present position and to explore how it could be displayed or put back to its original use as an altar” and that “documentary research might reveal more of its history.”

Removing the stone, as Revd Cubitt intends, will expose its currently obscured back and sides - and any clues they may hold.

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