Monday, 24 March 2014

Berwick St Leonard, Wiltshire

 These Norman carvings survive at St Leonards church.

This frieze of 6-petalled flowers is on the north side of the church.

A lamb of god with dainty feet is carved over the south door.

 Images © Rhiannon 2014

Knook, Wiltshire

These carvings are part of St Margaret's church, Knook.

Decorated capital on the south of the chancel arch.

The north capital has a slightly less formal design.

The tympanum over the blocked south door is intricately carved with interweaving scrolls and creatures. It's only faint and also obscured by lichens, so my interpretation is a bit vague. But that's a good excuse for another visit.

circle-shaped anglo-saxon knots terminate in two twirls on the left hand side.

This is the short stretch of interlace that's been copied so it makes a long border above the altar.

 Images © Rhiannon 2014

Saturday, 8 March 2014

South Stoke, North-East Somerset

Part of the elaborate north doorway at St James, South Stoke.
(You can look at Churchcrawler's photo on Flickr.)

And this is the diapered tympanum with its border of decorated circles:

 Images © Rhiannon 2014

Castle Combe, Wiltshire

We first visited our Norman Knight on the first true day of our Drawing Odyssey, way back in March. We both feel curiously fond of him, so I feel slightly shame-faced not to have posted these drawings before now (August). 

He really is outrageously superb. The anonymous carver has made him so real, you can imagine him (slowly) waking up. This is not down to his face, which is actually carved very simply, but due to the superbly solid and believable body shape, the drape of his clothes, and the perfect pose of his ankles and feet. I have to say, it's his feet which I like the best. They are so carefully and skillfully observed that you can only imagine the carver must have had someone in mail lying next to him while he carved. I think it's safe to say he didn't have a lion, because the mini dog/lion at the knight's feet is pure imagination. It's a nice thought though, to be resting your feet on a crazy little lion dog for eternity.

Norman knight sculpture in Castle Combe, Wiltshire

Lion at the feet of the Norman knight sculpture in Castle Combe, Wiltshire

B and I were not connoisseurs of cross-legged chain-mail knight sculptures at the time. And as a result of seeing him, we're keen to see others. But it seems that our knight friend at Castle Combe is actually a very good, and very intact example. We've been other places where similar sculptures have been rather hacked about. And his chain mail is really very good, it has been carved to follow the lines of his body just as a real suit would.

The blurb in the church (which isn't always as accurate as it might be) says it's an effigy of Sir Walter de Dunstanville, who would have lived at the castle of Castle Combe, and is supposed to have died in 1270. There's also some factoid about crossed legs indicating that he went on two crusades. But I'm led to believe that the leg-crossing is more style than symbol.

The carving is so good that the mystery artist must have surely have been in great demand. There must be other effigies of his (or even hers, who knows) somewhere. I know it's a 'type' and there will be plenty of other cross-legged knights with dog-lions, but maybe it's worth bearing in mind.

I just found the craziest thing on this page which is suggesting a WdeD is in Shrewsbury abbey. This cannot be right. Unless he's turned into one of those crazy saints whose relics were everywhere and with about three places claiming to have their skull. No, it does seem to be correct that it's a De Dunstanville. There seem to have been several Walters. Maybe ours is a grandson. It'd be interesting to know how effigy styles changed over time.

 Images © Rhiannon 2014 

Friday, 7 March 2014

Littleton Drew, Wiltshire

My sister and I drove to All Saints church at Littleton Drew specifically to visit the blocks of carved stone in its porch. They're said to be fragments of a 9th century cross. We stayed for a long time drawing and painting them. The designs are quite worn and even when you observe very closely it's not easy to tell what's going on. The fronts have floral scrolls but the side panels (one on each block) have knot patterns. The colour of the stones is lovely - the soft fawns of the Bath limestone overlaid with greens of algae and purplish shadows. It's cold in the porch but the stones are so worth your attention.

After a while we wondered if we were starting to hallucinate animal shapes in one of the blocks. Perhaps they really were there. They certainly started to come out in the drawings. The right-hand block was definitely more plant-y than the left. I'd read some things before we arrived - that the blocks fit one on top of the other. On reflection of the patterns, this seemed profoundly untrue. I think it's good to trust your own observations.

Afterwards I read about some lettering on one of the blocks. There's a drawing here in the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture from 1908. But neither my sister nor I had any recollection of seeing it. Why would it have been removed? Or was it early 20th century hallucination? Very strange.

You can see photos of the front of the stones here and here. They had been surrounded with spring vegetation when we visited and the porch looked friendly and welcoming. It was a shame the church itself was not open, but English Heritage seem to open it for visitors in the summer.

 Images © Rhiannon 2014