Month: October 2015

Inventing the Green Man

The medieval carvings known as the ‘Green Man’ – a face from whose mouth grow leaves and branches – are as a much a story of the twentieth century as they are of the fourteenth or fifteenth. This is because they were invented in 1939. The woman who invented them, by giving them the name, was Julia Somerset, who, under her official title of Lady Raglan wrote the first article on the subject. This is the starting point for our understanding of an image that has since become almost impossible to interpret or even define. (more…)

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A Gothic masterpiece at St Endellion

I’d heard about the late medieval sculpture that exists in a handful of churches in North Cornwall but until recently hadn’t seen any of it first hand. Because of the excellent North Cornwall Book Festival at St Endellion over the weekend I had the opportunity to combine my love of books and writing with my love of Gothic stone carving, clearly a win-win situation. When the church was empty one afternoon (it was great to see it used as a performance venue for the speakers and musicians, as well as hosting an exhibition and printmaking workshops) I was able to take a closer look. (more…)

Modern and medieval: cathedrals as perpetual works of art

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‘An art that has life does not restore works of the past’, said the artist Auguste Rodin in his book-length love letter to the Gothic period, Cathedrals of France (1914), ‘it continues them’. I’m thinking about this as I stand on the scaffolding at Exeter Cathedral with my friends and former stonemasonry colleagues, looking at the replacement stones that they’ve carved and fixed into place. The work is exceptionally good, and carries a sympathetic medieval spirit but there is something undeniably contemporary about them too. This is as it should be, and indeed, unavoidable. (more…)