Sunday, November 05, 2006

Going, going...

These beautiful creatures, full of life and menace, are high on a church near Boston, Lincs. They were carved in about 1390 by a craftsman whose name we'll never know.

There are hundreds like them on thousands of medieval parish churches in every county of England. Monsters and monarchs, saints and sinners, everyday people in an array of satirical, threatening, humorous and occasionally obscene poses. They date back centuries. They have been a free outdoor art gallery for generations. But they are disappearing fast. At least half have already fallen victim to wind, rain and air pollution and the rest are at serious risk of decay and disintegration.

This one is above a doorway on a neighbouring church. What is it? What might it signify? Who commissioned sinister beings like these, and why? Are they reminders of the beasts from Hell? Or a harkback to paganism? Who knows. Their meanings have been lost over time and now stand only as tributes to their artists' creativity, talent and imagination.

A face looking out eastwards from high on the roof of Burgh Le Marsh Church; across the Fens, over the Wash and onwards for ever. It has features similar to those of the Green Men that are found almost everywhere in Medieval carvings both here and abroad.

There is no effort being made to preserve exterior carvings like these. The structure and fabric of church buildings do receive a share of scarce funds for maintenance. Religious architecture is appreciated and preserved. But works of art such as these three above are neglected and will soon be gone forever.

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