Saturday, 24 October 2015

Langridge, North-East Somerset

Langridge church is home to something rather special: a carving of Mary and the Baby(ish) Jesus which sadly has been literally de-faced. We could immediately see similarities with the carving in Inglesham's amazing time-warp church. But it was raining hard outside and even with the lights on, it was dingy. With the panel high up over the chevrony chancel arch, neither of us felt up to the eye-squinting and neck-aching that would be required to draw it. I kind of regret that now, though a revisit could be made in future.

Because of the low light levels I couldn't take a very good photo. You can see one from the 19th century on the Bath in Time website. They claim the copyright's theirs but I'm inclined to say that's piffle.. if it's still anyone's it's the photographer's family. But there we are, to avoid aggravation I'm not going to pinch it. The carving looks in the same spot as it is now, just that now the surrounding wall has been plastered.

I regret the soft warm light in the church is not reflected by this hideously harsh flash-lit shot.

Carving guru Rosemary Cramp writes that it was found originally in 1827 'in a rough niche in the north wall' and that local tradition in 1995 had it that it'd originally come from 'a chapel or chantry, the remains of which are now part of a farmhouse, which is on Lansdown just above the road leading through Langridge.' It sounds like the same place as frequented by the St Alphege well pilgrims!

But that may be just local lore... what does Ms Cramp have to say about the carvings as they are? That Jesus sits on the Virgin's left knee, and that he's got a book in his left hand: I'm agreeable with those ideas. She also says his right hand is raised in blessing with two fingers up. That's would be like the Inglesham one. To me though, it's not obvious if that's what he's doing. In fact B immediately called the carving 'Graduation Jesus' because he looks like he's wearing a mortar board and waving a rolled-up certificate. I can't really see this two-fingered business (especially sat here at home with a dingy photo to look at).

Mary's a bit different to Inglesham too. You can see her feet, which is not something you can see on the Inglesham carving where she's twisted sideways. She's got one hand round Jesus (that's very clear) and the other hand... again I can't tell what's going on. Ms Cramp says she's holding an object up, perhaps an orb (this feature is seen in similar panels). I'm not so sure, I even wonder if her other hand isn't going behind Jesus. It needs a closer look really.

Either Mary has lots of hair or a scarf over her head, and Jesus (rather than a mortar board) probably had a great big halo. But the faces of both of them have gone, presumably hacked off by idiots. Hacking off the faces of saints is one thing, assuming you don't like people praying to them and suchlike. But it seems like going too far to want to desecrate an image of your saviour and his mother. I don't know, religious fanatics. No sense of aesthetics or that anything might be important beyond their narrow view of the world...

A lot of effort went into carving the garments they're wearing - there are lots of folds and traces of paint remain even now  - you can see the latter on my photo (despite its faults).

Mr P thought it was 13th century, but Ms Cramp feels there's a lot to make it pre-Conquest, which would be pretty exciting. "Devotion to the virgin increased in late Anglo-Saxon England" and then "there is increasing emphasis on her power as a mediator, not just her tender acceptance of the motherhood of Christ." So Ms Cramp says 'this impressive piece' could be from the first half of the eleventh century, and may once have been housed in a (possibly female) monastic house. However old it is, it is rather good.

In the porch the door is flanked by two spiral columns with scallopy capitals. This one on the right had a bit of extra carving in the centre. I liked the way even the left and right had side of that single capital differed! There's a photo of the entire zigzaggy doorway on British Listed Buildings.

Here's another interesting thing we noticed at Langridge. I was looking at the superb chancel arch, it's got 3D chevronage in all directions (again, you can see a picture on British Listed Buildings). At the ends of such chancel arches, you often get a head stop. We've seen dragons used quite frequently - indeed we saw the ones at Dinder the other day which were probably head stops.

So I was interested to observe this:

Look at that, it's been shaped and carved into a pointy end with long lines. I'm going to invent my own term here, I'm going to call it a ProtoDragon. Because it looks the world to me like the lines of the mouths of dragons we've seen elsewhere. I was very interested to spot this. There was one on either side of the arch.

And at the foot of the pillars of the chancel arch were fancy feet, reminiscent of the design we saw on our last trip to Old Holcombe, with 'toes'.

There's much more to be interested in at Langridge, but this is already long enough for one post I think.

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