Friday, 2 January 2015

Potterne, Wiltshire

This is the amazing tub font at Potterne, near Devizes in Wiltshire, which we visited last August. It's very plain and solid, but unusually is inscribed around the top with part of a psalm:

Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes aquarum, ita desiderat anima mea ad te Dominus*. Amen

(As the hart yearns for springs of water, so longs my soul for thee, Lord.)

Or, as the King James Bible puts it, 'As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God'. But much as I love the language in the KJB, 'panteth' is just a bit too silly sounding in the 21st century.

* I'm not sure if it says Deus or Dominus, as I'm ashamed to say that I did not study it closely enough. Unusually, B and I didn't even draw it. The Psalterium Romanum, via which the font has been dated to the 10th century or even earlier, uses 'Deus', but this book on fonts says Potterne has 'Dominus'. Tenth century though - that's crazily early. It always gives me a special kick to find these things which were made before that date of 1066 which looms so large in the English psyche.

I'd like to go back and copy the lettering - I don't see it reproduced elsewhere on the internet, other than in indistinct photos. It'd be nice to be able to compare it with other examples. There can't be many.

The font was actually refound in Victorian times - it was discovered under the floor of the nave during the restoration of the church in 1872. What on earth was that about? Presumably when it was buried within the church, it was still held to be important? But why not keep it for its original use? And when was it buried, how long was it buried for? So many questions. And the current font is 100% dull to me. Why would you swap for such a thing.

Images © Rhiannon 2014/15