Friday, September 18, 2015
Brent Knoll, Somerset
The church at Brent Knoll has a terrific collection of bench ends dating from the 14th and 15th centuries. Vigorously carved, they feature a number of different devotional and moral subjects and I’m sharing one of the devotional ones today.
I particularly like the chevron-carved wool of this lamb, and the way its head is turned towards the cross and flag. In some respects this is a familiar image from Christian iconography, a symbol of Jesus and the way he is sacrificed to redeem the sins of humankind that’s found in a variety of locations from van Eyck’s large Ghent Altarpiece to humble pub signs. ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,’ says John the Baptist in John’s Gospel. But there is no ‘standard’ version of the image – sometimes the lamb bleeds, to represent sacrifice, sometimes he is shown with a book, often, as here, he stands holding the flag. The lamb usually has a halo, but here he has not. Another issue for carvers of the lamb and flag was portraying how the creature holds the flagpole. Some versions of the image have the lamb’s leg crooked around the pole, which rests on the his shoulder; in others the pole stands on the ground while the lamb holds it against his body. Here it seems to balance on the lamb’s foot, a lovely touch.
Buildings, and the objects inside them, are also interesting for the personal memories they conjure up, and I cannot resist sharing one such memory. This image, then, reminds me of the Lamb and Flag pub in Covent Garden. This pub was an Ian Nairn special, and I was pleased to discover that it was an office local when I worked in the area, a watering hole we favoured especially in the summer. ‘It’s one o’clock. Anyone want to go and stand outside the Lamb and Flag?’ J, a cherished colleague, gone now, would call out. An hour of vertical drinking – sometimes I have to say rather more than an hour* – would ensue.
* Most of us reformed, in the end: autre temps, autre moeurs…