Saturday, 6 October 2018

A Feast of Zigzags

This is not the deep valley, cosy country lane Cotswolds beloved of tourists, but is in a location almost 1000 feet above sea level and situated on an escarpment.
But it is well worth the climb and exploration to find the Norman church of St.John at Elkstone.
Simon Jenkins travelled the length and breath of England for his book 'England's Thousand Best Churches', and included it in his Gloucestershire section. 
The Architectural Historian, Pevsner, described it as one of the most interesting and best preserved Norman churches in an area rich by any standards in the Romanesque. It retains its splendid Norman doorway and two sets of glorious Norman arches, and a corbel table of grotesques contemporary with the early church.

A stained glass window showing St. John in the south wall of the chancel which was made for the church in 1959 by W T Carter Shapland.
Built in 1130, the original Norman church had a crossing tower that was lost in the c13th. The south door is protected by a later porch which has afforded protection to the Norman tympanum now 888 years old.
The tympanum rests on a shouldered arch, supported by pillars with carved grotesque head capitals 
Entry into the church is via centuries of well worn stone steps,
but on arrival the eye is immediately captured by two sets of exquisite romanesque Norman arches - the first set lead from the nave into the chancel and the second set lead on into the sanctuary. Decorated in deep cut zigzags, also known as chevrons, they are a glory to behold. The outer hood mould is pelleted, terminating at each end with a dragon's head.  
Beyond the arches is the sanctuary with a small intricately carved stone Norman window which has a vividly coloured glass window done in 1929. It is the work of Cotswold stained glass designer, Henry Payne, a celebrated artist/designer, and done in the style of Burne-Jones. 
From the outside this delightful little east window has a carved pelleted inner order (sometimes referred to as beads or ball flowers) and an outer order of crenelation or battlement carving.

In the nave there is a Jacobean pulpit with one of the carved dragons descending immediately behind the preacher's head. 
There is an unusual church feature in the sanctuary that is shared by only one other church in this country.
This door holds the secret, so let's turn the lock
carefully climb the spiral stone steps,
and reach the Columbarium (dovecot - pigeonair).
Some of the mythical beasts and grotesque heads running around the corbel table.
Of all the grotesque heads and mythical beasts, this one is my personal favourite. I think that it must have been carved by a Norman with a sense of humour and vivid imagination.

33 comments:

  1. Hello Rosemary, There are so many fascinating features that are well preserved in this church. And the best part is that this is the "reward" for exploring such a beautiful section of England.
    --Jim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Jim - this church is certainly well off the beaten track, but a delightful little gem to visit and admire on such a lovely autumn day.

      Delete
  2. A very interesting church. I've often wondered the reasons why so many churches have carved monstrosities outside and inside when they are supposed to be places of light and hope. Early visual propaganda perhaps for the masses viewing them to reinforce the idea of good and evil lurking all around us in every corner if you stray off the chosen path.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There was certainly quite a lot of cross fertilisation in the architectural symbolism where we see paganism mixed with christianity especially in Saxon and Norman churches - a prime example being the Green Man.

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. This church is certainly a pleasure to visit and see.

      Delete
  4. Thank you for sharing this wonderful piece of ancient architecture! There are many details here that I find very inspiring! I love the Medieval era and will use many of these details in my miniatures! The dragon heads at the terminus of the arches is just wonderful! And the grotesques as part of the carved chevrons in the arched doorway is something I have not seen before! (I am building a miniature doll house scale castle of the Norman era and am in the process of designing the window surrounds!) It is a treat to see such unusual and rare and well preserved details! Thank you again for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am pleased that you found so much of interest in this post that may be of assistance to you with your interesting project. Thank you for your comment and for letting me know

      Delete
  5. I'm amazed at the quality of the stonework and how well it has been preserved. In E Anglia Saxon and Norman work is often quite crudely executed and much bashed about by the centuries. Perhaps this is because there was little good building stone or tradition of craftsmanship in this area. Never heard of a dovecot being part of a church before, though I do know one instance of a former church being later used as a dovecote. Thanks for this splendid and interesting post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I should imagine that you are correct about the building materials in E Anglia - here, today, we still have a bountiful amount of stone quarries filled with oolitic limestone. I am pleased that you found the post interesting - thank you.

      Delete
  6. Thank you for sharing and describing the features and details of this ancient, well preserved church. Walking in to see such a peaceful sanctuary framed by beautifully carved arches must have been a calming experience. The mellow light is lovely.
    Looks like you were experiencing one of those beautiful English Autumn days. The leaves are still green, bu I'm looking forward to your photos of beautiful colours in future days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The sanctuary windows have a touch of yellow in them which then creates the lovely golden glow and special ambience.
      I took these last weekend, but a week later there is more autumn colour beginning to appear on the trees, but still a way to go.

      Delete
  7. SO beautiful! Love the chevrons and dragons head. Also that amazing pulpit. And the beautiful 20th century stained glass.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love good strong Norman architecture - its clean lines, boldness, and contemporary feel never fails to please.

      Delete
  8. A fascinating post, Rosemary, and it is wonderful to enjoy such beautiful architecture and features from so long ago. The arches are wonderful, with their chevrons and dragons. The stained glass window from 1929 is a treat too, and it is interesting to see how even such an old church can continue to be a 'work in progress'. Thank you for sharing - I loved it all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Patricia - I am so pleased that you enjoyed seeing this lovely little church - it is a little gem hidden away on the high escarpment.

      Delete
  9. Dear Rosemary,
    What treasures! I admire the carvings, both in stone and in wood.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Gina - good craftsmanship is a wonderful and enduring legacy and a beauty for all to behold.

      Delete
  10. Thank you for your always so interesting posts about history. It is a joy to see all the details you noticed and your explanations of them. Thanks for you comment at my blog, this summer is so exceptional, I had my wintercoats already from the attic brought down but we need no coats at all now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am pleased that you found it interesting - this continual lovely weather is a great way to shorten our winter - long may it continue.

      Delete
  11. Dearest Rosemary,
    What an architectural treasure trove this Norman Church is! Quite well preserved too, no wonder it was mentioned in the book about England's 1000 best churches!
    Love the Gargoyles around that square tower and also those under the corbel table.
    Great photos you made for passing this rare beauty on to your readers!
    Hugs,
    Mariette

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Mariette - I am having a bit of a problem with my camera as it has started to 'jump' when I zoom in on distant subjects, so I appreciate your kind comment regarding the photos. Glad that you enjoyed seeing this lovely little Norman church.

      Delete
  12. I always enjoy your beautiful photography. This posts makes me realize that when I breeze quickly through a historic building, in this case a church, how much I miss. I am wondering if the pigeonair was there to supply a food source?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, you are right - a Columbarium was a regular feature to be seen during medieval times and an important source of fresh meat. It is unusual to see one in a church, but they can still often be seen in the grounds of great estates, and manor houses both here and on the continent.

      Delete
  13. Incredibly well kept in spite of the old age , what a beauty !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The zigzags are in wonderful condition, crisp and sharp, considering that they are nearly 900 years old.

      Delete
  14. Lovely. You may be interested in my posts.
    https://forestofnoreturn.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  15. Every car needs Simon Jenkins in the glove compartment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have his churches, houses, and cathedrals, but would really like his latest book on railway stations.

      Delete
  16. Today, I feel like I have a 'grotesque head' and am surrounded by 'mythical beasts' as we await yet another hurricane visit! Rosemary, catching up here with your always amazing photos of beautiful England. . . . . . and all that history. . . . . .brings me something interesting to read, thank you, along with pangs of homesickness of course.

    Enjoy your Autumn, ours so far is just horrid!

    Mary x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really hoping that hurricane Michael stays away from you Mary.
      Glad that you enjoyed seeing a bit of our local history - I am sure that I would feel just the same as you - it must be due to these roots of ours which run extremely deep.

      Delete

❖PLEASE NOTE❖ Comments made by those who hide their identity will be deleted

“You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you - you have to go to them sometimes”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh