Sunday, June 22, 2014
A trough, but for what, or whom? or, Odd things in churches (6)
In the church porch at Ripple stands this curious shallow stone trough. When I first saw it I didn’t know quite what to make of it and at first took it as something displaced from a garden. Before I could wonder which plants might look good in it, though, I caught sight of a nearby label, which says that the trough is ‘traditionally’ said to have been used as a container for food for lepers or others with infectious diseases. The idea was that the trough would be placed by the roadside, away from houses, at a point where those with leprosy could come and collect food left by the charitable. Later, when it fell out of use, the trough was moved to the church for preservation.
I don’t know how much store to set by this tradition. I’ve not come across anything quite like this before, though there’s a tendency to explain certain architectural features of churches (leper squints, leper windows, and so on) by linking them to the needs of those whose infectious condition prevented them from entering the church building. I’m not sure how much actual evidence there is for these connections. Meanwhile, the stone trough of Ripple is doing sterling service as an umbrella sand. Here’s to versatility.