Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Holy Rood - a Saxon Church in Daglingworth

We are three miles outside Cirencester having driven up to Daglingworth via the Fosse Way - a road that is one of the greatest legacies left to us from the Roman period. Even today this straight long road links up Exeter, Bath, Cirencester, the Cotswolds, Leicester and Lincoln.
The ripple of gold in the oat fields, the berries festooning the hedgerows, and gardens laden with fruit and vegetables are prime indicators that September is now here. 
We have arrived in the Cotswold village of Daglingworth, where we are endeavouring to find our bearings as we seek their small Saxon church, but what is this that has just flown in?
I wonder if this juvenile Grey Heron has also lost its bearings? But I think not, judging by the pond weed clinging to his legs, he obviously knows and frequents the small stream that burbles through the village. 

As we wander the narrow lanes a young Dachshund barks voraciously at us - is he warning us off, or is he just seeking our attention? Tentatively, I wander over to him, he wags his tail, and obviously wants to be stroked. If he could jump down off his wall, then I think that he would happily join us on our walk. 


We spot Holy Rood and head up along Church Lane towards it, but as we draw near, we realise that a wedding is in progress.





















However, we can bide our time in the churchyard until it is over. 







In the churchyard are the remains of what is thought to be a very early Christian meeting cross. It is where the villagers would have gathered to listen to a preacher and say prayers long before the Saxon church was even built. 







Suddenly the silence is broken as the church bells ring out their joyous message across the valley, and then the newly married couple appear.  
We enjoyed seeing the bride and groom and their guests as they departed for their reception. It made us feel that all's well in the world, even if it's not.
This little Saxon church was drastically 'restored' during the mid 19th century, but happily the four rare Anglo Saxon sculptures that we have come to see remain intact.


The first shows St. Peter clutching a book to his breast whilst in his other hand he holds a giant key aloft, and posed as if ready to unlock the gates to heaven. It is Romanesque in style and carved out of local Cotswold stone. 


The second sculpture is of Christ in Majesty with a cruciform halo. He is seated on a basic chair wearing a long garment with a simple opening at the neck, and fastened by a band around the waist. He is portrayed with a beard and moustache, and holds a cross in his left hand, whilst giving the benediction with his right.

The Crucifixion shows Christ bearded and moustached, he is represented on the cross as a large and dominant figure in comparison to the other figures - the Anglo Saxons disliked showing Christ as a broken man. The figures either side are Roman soldiers: one (Longinus) holds a lance with which he pierced Christ's side. The other (Stephaton) holds a vinegar-soaked sponge which he used to increase the pain of Christ's wounds.
All three sculptures are in a single artistic style and are considered to be the work of just one craftsman.
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These three plaques were found unexpectedly when the chancel arch was rebuilt in 1850. It appears that they had been reused by the original Anglo Saxon church builders (the sculptural images were hidden, facing inwards) and used to form the vertical jambs to the chancel arch, presumably having been discarded. Nikolaus Pevsner, the eminent architectural historian, suggests that this must surely point to the fact that they are, in fact, much earlier than this 10th century Saxon church. He suggests that they are 8th/9th century or possibly even earlier, so there is a strong likelihood that these carvings are over 1200 years old. 

The smallest piece showing the Crucifixion has suffered badly from weathering. It was originally sited outside on the East Gable end of the church, before being removed and brought inside for safety.

39 comments:

  1. Beautiful photos with a lot of special subjects you saw and met.

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  2. Hello Rosemary, These sculptures were lucky survivals. Some Egyptian and other ancient carvings survived in a similar manner, used backwards as fill when a new building was created. The weathered Saxon crucifixion carving is still remarkable well preserved--many Victorian marble tombstones or building ornaments are virtually obliterated, especially from acid rain.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - I agree that these are very lucky survivals - they are an extraordinary little group - I like to imagine the craftsman who made them so long ago.

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  3. My word the grass in the graveyard is well cut and kept, it's a pleasure to look at it.
    Love your photos, the sculptures are fascinating and how lovely to see a bride in these times :)
    Take care.

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    1. It was lovely to see the wedding taking place especially during these strange times that we are all currently living through.

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    1. Cieszę się, że podobał ci się ich widok

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  5. Beautiful church and graveyard...I was thrilled to see the early sculptures. Weather has beaten down the details of so many sculptures that are out in the elements.

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    1. In many respects it was a happy fortune that saved them for us to be able to see today.

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  6. What a treasure those ancient carvings are!

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  7. I love travelling with you. You are very thorough and the pictures are terrific. Plus the dog is adorable.

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    1. I am pleased that you enjoyed the journey - do please travel with me again.

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  8. So much history and building heritage down in that area that any walk along the Cotswold lanes or pilgrim routes have delights round every corner yet coming from a bright city I was stunned how dark it was at night, even in the villages, with street lights far apart in some places. It did feel spooky as a stranger wandering between them if out late as it was dark by 7:00pm in late autumn.

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    1. We do not have a single light anywhere in the vicinity of where I live. When we first came first arrived here, like you, I found the pitch black nights slightly frightening, but now I wouldn't have it any other way. I now really love seeing our wonderful night skies filled with starlight and moon beams.

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  9. What wonderful Anglo Saxon sculptures, a delight to see them. I particularly like St Peter, beautifully made. How astonishing to think they were used as building material back in the past. It is lovely to see a bride, and your photo is a perfect little arch. I am sure the couple would love a copy!

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    1. Those old yew trees did form a little archway for the camera as the couple departed from the church. St. Peter was my favourite too.

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  10. What a beautiful setting for this Anglo Saxon church. The sculptures are amazing and I'm glad they are being preserved. Such craftmanship and attention to detail.

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    1. The sculptures general appearance is one of simplicity but as you look more, the more you see.

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  11. What an amazing survival. I love that simple style of carving and wonder how many treasures like these may be hidden away in the fabric of our old churches, after all it's not every day that we knock walls down to take a look. Are you sure that St Peter isn't checking his mobile phone?

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    1. Gosh John, you are right - I do believe he is!

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  12. I love your travels with a camera.

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  13. Dearest Rosemary,
    Those very rare Anglo Saxon sculptures are indeed gems to be seen at this time and age.
    They tell us the very early Christian story in a clear and simplified way.
    Glad you came upon some unexpected surprises such as the blue heron posing for you and the cute dachshund. That wedding of course did add some flair as well.
    You captured your story very well.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariette - I am pleased that you enjoyed the unexpected extra surprises that we saw on our afternoon out. The friendly dachshund, the juvenile grey heron, and of course the wedding were a bonus on our trip to see the Anglo Saxon sculptures.

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  14. Quite a beautiful church. The heron is a surprise, and the dachsie is a cutie.

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  15. Thank you, Rosemary, for a delightful adventure this early afternoon while I am trying to stay home as much as possible! Those primitives are a treasure! Like you, I love the contemporary suggestion from John about St. Peter and his mobile phone! Did you risk it and pet that cute dachshound? I think I would have.

    We have many herons around here and often they are nearby when I go for a bike ride around the river in our city. Such regal birds and so calm. I feel so honored when they remain still so I can get a "good look" before they take off with such ease and fly away gracefully.

    It's always fun for me to arrive at a church and get to see a bridal party! I've often seem them in arboretums, too, for their wedding photos!

    Mary in Oregon

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    1. It is really lovely to hear from you Mary and hope all is well with you. Yes, I did stroke the dachshund, and he didn't want me to stop. It was a fun trip out which we enjoyed.

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  16. The plaques are amazing. Thank you for seeking them out for us. What a treat to see the bride and groom.

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    1. I am pleased you enjoyed seeing them Janey.

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  17. Thank you for a much needed confirmation of continuity. The figures in the panels are so simple yet profound in their solidity. John's comment on Saint Peter is a hoot! Just goes to show the timeless appeal of these treasures. Your blog is a real delight where one learns so much. Thank you again.

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    1. Your reflections concerning continuity are very appropriate - nothing ever continues forever, and life constantly moves forward.
      Thank you for your very kind comment which I greatly appreciate.

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  18. What a beautiful post, and as ever gorgeous photos. I love the little daschund.

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    1. The Dachshund was a little sweetie - far nicer than he sounded from his bark.

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