Manticore  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Church of St. Mary and St. David is a Church of England parish church at Kilpeck in the English county of Herefordshire, about 5 miles from the border with Wales. It is famous for its Norman corbels, of which eighty-five survive, one fewer than are illustrated by George Robert Lewis in 1842 (originally there were 91). The meaning of most is obscure, but some probably come from a bestiary, and they include a Sheela na Gig[1].

Architecture and carvings

The carvings in the local red sandstone are remarkable for the number and fine preservation, particularly round the south door, the west window, and a row of corbels which run right around the exterior of the church under the eaves. The carvings are all original and in their original positions. They have been attributed to a Herefordshire School of stonemasons, probably local but who may have been instructed by master masons recruited in France by Oliver de Merlimond. He was steward to the Lord of Wigmore, Hugh Mortimer, who went on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain and, on his return, built a church with similar Romanesque carvings (now largely lost) at Shobdon, 30 miles north of Kilpeck. Hugh de Kilpeck, a relative of Earl Mortimer, employed the same builders at Kilpeck, and their work is also known at Leominster, Rowlestone and elsewhere.

The south door has double columns. The outer columns have carvings of a series of snakes, heads swallowing tails. In common with most of the other carvings, the meaning of these is unclear, but they may represent rebirth via the snake's seasonal sloughing of its skin. The inner right column shows birds in foliage; at the top of the right columns is a green man. The inner left column has two warriors who, unusually, are in loose trousers. The outer sections of the arch above the doorway show creatures which can be interpreted as a manticore and a basilisk, and various other mythical and actual birds and beasts. The semicircular tympanum depicts a tree of life.

For many years the south door was hidden by a wooden porch, but this was removed in 1868 to allow visitors to see the carvings as originally intended. Although this has left the doorway exposed to the elements, the sandstone is exceptionally robust, and its condition is carefully monitored. In 1968 a narrow protruding strip of lead was let into the mortar above the arch to protect the carvings from water running down the wall above.

Eighty-five corbels survive, one fewer than are illustrated by Lewis in 1842 (originally there were 91). The meaning of most is obscure, but some probably come from a bestiary, and they include a Sheela na Gig[2].

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Manticore" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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