Dragons, griffins, a unicorn, wild men, green men, an imp, an elephant with hooves and stone carved heads. These are just some of the wonders of the medieval world that can be found in Chester Cathedral and the Church of St John the Baptist, formerly Chester Cathedral.
Gordon Emery’s new book is a must for anyone interested in the history of Chester, the cathedral, or myths, legends and fantasies of medieval England. Local artist Jay Hurst has depicted the author as the green man on the cover.
During the late 14th century an intricate wooden quire was carved in the former St Werburgh’s Abbey church. Monks had to pray for long hours standing up, so a system of ‘misericords’ or mercy seats was made with armrests and small ledges to rest on. The underneath of the seats, usually used in an upright position, were carved with illustrated scenes.
When the church was restored in the last quarter of the 19th century the seats were taken out and photographed outside in natural light. However, by the time of the photographs, five of the interesting medieval carved seats had been destroyed because the themes were too indecent for the Victorian morals of Dean Howson, who had them destroyed and replaced them with blanks. These five were later carved with Christian scenes and Aesop’s fables.
Now, for the first time the almost complete set of unique photographs of the medieval carvings under the monks’ seats in the old abbey church quire are available to the public along with a plan of the 112 carved corbels, marvels of the 14th century carvers’ art. One of these represents the green man, a figure found in churches countrywide with leaves growing out of his face.
Don’t be late for Gordon’s talk at 6.45 PM!!