Norton Priory in Runcorn has reopened following a multi-million pound redevelopment with more exhibits including many not seen by the public for 500 years.
Also unveiled for the first time since the museum shut in early 2015 is the 12ft statue of St Christopher – one of the largest and most important medieval sculptures in the country.
The displays exhibit more than four times the artefacts than previously shown and include fine works of art such as sculptures, decorative grave stones and tile but also the personal items of the inhabitants who lived and worked at Norton Priory such as shoes, combs and wooden bowls.
Their stories have also been revealed for the first time following extensive research by the universities of Lancaster, Liverpool and Leicester and are brought further back to life by the use of facial reconstructions.
One such story is that of a crusader knight believed to have been murdered in the 13th century.
An interactive exhibit funded by the Wellcome Trust will demonstrate how forensic osteoarchaeologists identified the murder.
Elsewhere the results of DNA analyses by Dr Turi King who previously led the Richard III investigation will also be revealed.
The 12th century undercroft has also been transformed.
Two years ago, the building was under threat from water ingress and its Victorian tiled floor severely damaged.
Now, it has been entirely restored thanks to public donations and a grant from the Pilgrim Trust.
The Victorian tiles have been conserved and re-laid alongside replicas from Craven Dunnill Jackfield restoring the decorative floor to how it looked at the beginning of the 19th century.
A priory spokeswoman said the Grade One listed building’s features have never before looked so stunning – from the 12th century vaulting and arcades to the Georgian wine bins and Victorian porch and tiles.
Paul Mathews, Norton Priory Museum And Gardens Trust chairman, said: “Norton Priory’s importance as an archaeological treasure has never been in question and the new displays and restoration works do the site and the nationally significant collections justice for the first time.
“Thanks to new, cutting edge research, 900-year old stories will be retold and brought to life in the state-of-the-art, interactive galleries.’
Steve Miller, Heritage Lottery Fund trustee, said: “This is a special moment, even for a site with such an extensive and fascinating history.
“Thanks to National Lottery players, the new modern museum building now provides a fitting setting to tell the story of 900 years of social, political and religious change and the precious undercroft has been rescued and is now at the heart of the site.
“We look forward to seeing the reaction of the first visitors following the re-opening.”
The project has been developed with support from Halton Borough Council.
Cllr Eddie Jones said: “Halton Borough Council is delighted to have been partners in this exciting project. We envisage that Norton Priory’s importance will be truly recognised nationally and will attract tourists from far afield giving a boost to the local economy.
“For local people too, the facilities will be second to none with a new café and an education suite that will accommodate school groups twice as large as previously.”
Accompanying the museum’s reopening is a programme of special events and developments.