Sunday, March 24, 2013
As my British readers will know, Spring is late here this year. There is snow in the hills around the town where I live, and the wintry weather makes journeys to explore buildings less frequent. So here is a carving from my local church here in Winchcombe, which I can photograph by walking a couple of hundred yards up the road (or by standing in my garden).
The church of St Peter, Winchcombe, was built in the 15th century, and is one of those spacious, late-Gothic buildings that on the Cotswolds are often referred to as "wool churches", because the money to build them came from the region's rich wool merchants. The origin of this church is slightly different, though, in that funds for it were provided by the local lord, Ralph Boteler, first Baron Sudeley, who had been a soldier involved in England's campaigns in France and a holder of high office at the English court.
The grotesque carvings high on the outer walls of the church are among the most vigorous to have survived anywhere in England. There are various theories about their subjects, though there is little hard evidence about who they portray. Their presence on the walls of a church is testimony to the close relationship between the grotesque and the sublime in medieval art and thought – and to the sense of humour that links us to our forbears.