The writing was carefully painted onto a wall at Salisbury Cathedral Photo: APEX Oldest example of written English discovered in churchWhat is believed to be the first ever example of English in a British church has been discovered.
It was written half a millennia ago and its message was serious enough to be painted carefully on the wall of England's finest cathedral.
But now it seems no one can quite decipher exactly what the inscription on the wall of Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire actually says
It was hidden for 350 years behind a monument to a local aristocrat who was 'martyred' in the English Civil War for his support of King Charles I but rediscovered in January by astonished conservators.
And baffled experts have resorted to asking members of the public with a keen eye for deciphering puzzles to have a look at the text, and a computer-enhanced version, to see if they can help out.
Tim Tatton Brown, the cathedral's consultant archaeologist, explained: "The Cathedral's conservators quite unexpectedly found some beautifully written English text behind the Henry Hyde Monument on the cathedral's south aisle wall when the monument was temporarily removed as part of the on-going schedule of work.
"I had originally surmised the text date from the 16th century, bearing in mind that the monument was erected soon after 1660. However, our researchers now suggest it was written a century earlier and therefore pre-dates the Reformation.
"My colleague Dr John Crook has made a comprehensive detailed photographic record of the script and subsequently enhanced the letter forms on his computer," he added.
And what the experts now think is that this could be the first example of English written in a church context - scholars were executed for translating the bible into English at that tune.
"Study of this by specialist academics is leaning towards the text being written in the 15th century, a period when English was, for the very first time, being used just occasionally in preference to Latin, which was then 'the norm'," added Mr Tatton-Brown.
Dr Crook said he was equally fascinated by the writing and what it says.
"There are clearly several lines of a large textual inscription.
"There seems to be a phrase but so far we have not been able to work out more.
"If anyone thinks they can identify any further letters from the enhanced photographs, please contact us via the Salisbury Cathedral website and I can trace them in," he added.
"So far now the basic questions of what exactly the words are and why the text was written on the cathedral wall remain unanswered.
"It would be wonderful for us to solve the mystery."
The real thing has been covered back up by the Henry Hyde Monument where conservators say it will be better protected in the long run.