Sunday, 3 August 2014

Moreton Valence, Gloucestershire

St Stephen's church is between the River Severn and the very straight Roman A38, down a quiet little dead-end road. We had to walk round the back of the church to find the carvings - discovering the tympanum inside a very quaint half-timbered porch, along with some very ancient tombstones. This north side definitely felt forgotten. But it seemed to make more sense when we wandered towards a little bridge over some water - it was a rectangular moat. English Heritage's record says that this dates to 1253 when King Henry III gave ten Forest of Dean oaks to William de Valance to build a hall. Maybe that's why the grand side of the church faces that way. Or maybe it's the reverse, and that's why the moat is on the north side because it faced the pre-existing church entrance.

Whichever, we both liked the carving. It's not as bold as some, but neither was it as clearly detailed as others we've seen. It's not that clear whether the creature is a dragon or a wyvern - the lines were a bit vague. And poor St Michael didn't have much of a facial expression. But I did like the flag on his spear.

Some of the swirling shapes don't seem to quite make sense (the one under his sleeve, which is perhaps a wing), and the foliage on the right seems to be coming out of a plant pot (which I like). Our new Tympanum Bible (Keyser) calls the shapes on the left 'souls', but I'm not wholly convinced. They're certainly numinous but I thought they looked more like clouds or waves. Who knows.

St Michael and the dragon tympanuum, Moreton Valence, Gloucestershire

Outside on the north corners of the church were some really cute animal corbels. It was hard to say what sort of animal really - bears? pigs? They were clutching their little faces in a very sweet way.

Norman animal corbel at Moreton Valence church, Gloucestershire

 There were four carved pretty much the same. Which was interesting considering the carvings we saw next at Leonard Stanley.

Images © Rhiannon 2014

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