Thursday, 16 April 2015
Tewkesbury Part 2: The Abbey
There has been a church on the site of Tewkesbury Abbey for 1200 years and the present building is 900 years old. Around 715 a monastery was founded and around 1087 building of the present abbey began. It was consecrated in 1121. The abbey buildings survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540 due to people of the town buying the church from Henry VIII for £453 (being the cost of the lead and bells). It is one of the largest parish churches in the country being of cathedral proportions.
This beautiful tree on the Abbey lawns is a Copper Beech and must look spectacular in the Summer.
There are quite a few of these stone carvings propped up around the sides of the Abbey walls. This one represents an Angel playing the bagpipes.
Our Lady Queen of Peace statue by Anthony Robinson
Various tombs and monuments. I wish now I had taken more photos of the information boards around the Abbey. I thought I would be able to get information on various features from the Guide Book I bought. Its a beautifully illustrated souvenir but unfortunately there is not a lot of info on the chapels, font, pulpit, monuments etc.
Tomb of Hugh Le Despenser died 1326.
Tomb of Robert Forthington, Abbot of Tewkesbury 1232-1254
Tomb of Alan, Abbott of Tewkesbury 1187-1202. He came to Tewkesbury from Canterbury where he had edited letters relating to the controversy between Archbishop Thomas Becket and King Henry II which tell us most of what we know about the events leading up to the tragic murder of Becket in 1170.
A word of warning (Pete if you read this post and ever visit Tewkesbury take heed!! :) )
Norman Pillars and Vaulted Ceiling. The Pillars are over 2 metres in diameter and would have been plastered and decorated with patterns in Medieval times.
Blue and red lierne vaulting (the ceilings were beautiful).
Recent renovation of the ceiling of the Warwick or Beauchamp Chantry (built in the early 15th century by Isabel Beauchamp as a memorial for both herself and her 2 husbands) has revealed some of the Medieval colours.
The Abbey is famous for its Medieval Glass but there are splendid examples of Victorian and modern glass.
Jesus Blessing Children (Victorian)
The Pharisee and The Republican (Victorian)
The next 2 modern windows are probably the most beautiful stained glass I have ever seen - I wish the photos did them justice! They were made by Tom Denny and placed in the Chapel of St John the Baptist and St Catherine to commemorate the 900 year anniversary of the arrival of monks at Tewkesbury.They are entitled "Work" and "Prayer" from the Benedictine motto "to work is to pray".
Edit - Apologies just realised I posted 2 photos of the same window! so have added the correct picture below!
One of the windows representing Christ's Miracles - this one the Loaves and the Fishes - Feeding the 5000
Changing Water to Wine
Jesus Walking on the Water
Robert Fitzhamon and 3 major successors (Medieval)
When I was buying a photography pass I picked up an interesting book on the Abbey's misericords. Misericords are wooden ledges on the underside of a seat containing a carved bracket where, in Medieval times, frail or elderly monks could lean during the long services.
The carvings often have a secular theme, for example, of rural life or traditional customs.
Unfortunately, not many of the misericords were on display. I did pick up a few of the seats but to be honest the seats wouldn't stay up unless you held them (not easy when trying to take a photograph in a cramped space) and I wasn't 100% sure I should be in the choir stalls anyway!
I am not sure what the carving in the first image represents - as I couldn't find it in the book!
The next carving is an example of crude medieval wit. So, if you are of a sensitive nature, it might be best not to read the next sentence although I have tried to word it as politely as I can!
This naked human figure has its bottom exposed in a gesture of contempt. It appears to be "breaking wind" which in medieval times was associated with the devil and the sulphurous smell of hell. An alternative interpretation would be that it was meant to keep the devil out.
This misericord shows 2 hybrid creatures/monsters. On the left is a biped with clawed feet and a snarling head. The one on the right combines a bird's body with 2 human legs.
I have mentioned before how fascinated I am by the Green Man and I know several of you are also fans! so I was particularly excited that the Abbey actually has a "Green Man Trail" with over 50 to find! The website and leaflet do suggest you take along binoculars and a torch to find the figures as most are up in the roof (which is very high). Well, there was absolutely no way I was going to walk round flashing a torch at the roof rafters but I did take binoculars which I had very foolishly decided to leave in the car!! Consequently, and, much to my huge disappointment, I couldn't make out any Green Men at all. Once D arrived back from his Severn Hams walk I more or less frogmarched him into the Abbey, ignoring all his protests, and told him he had to try and get some Green Man photos using the zoom on the bridge camera.
This first one is actually outside on wrought iron gates
and this is the only one we found :( Mainly because after 5 minutes of looking D had had enough!
If we visit again (B and E are keen to go to see what they were missing) I'll take my binoculars and borrow the bridge and spend as many hours as are necessary finding some more. I did come home with a Green Man mug though :)
There is some interesting information in the Trail leaflet - there are apparently four types of faces. A foliate face where the face becomes leaves; a disgorging face where leaves sprout from the mouth; a bloodsucker face with branches/leaves growing out of eyes, mouth or ears and a Jack in the Green face with a head peeping out of a frame of leaves.
Many of the gilded bosses (carved blocks where stone ribs of a vaulted ceiling join) were composed of heads of mythological type figures - here's a few more taken with the Canon bridge
Are these more Green Men?
And just a few more showing how well the zoom coped with the stained glass windows.
Had to show those lovely Denny windows again!
Part of the East Window which contains rare Medieval glass.
Sorry for such a long post and so many photos if you've made it this far!!
Some of the photos are a bit "iffy" I am afraid - my Olympus isn't a fan of indoor photography and using the flash often makes things darker! I do sometimes up the intensity of the flash but its very hit and miss - if you don't do it enough the photos are still too dark and turn it up too high and they are over-exposed!
On the subject of the Green Man - there was an interesting piece on tv this afternoon on one of those awful day-time programmes (Flog It?) on late afternoon. The show visited Southwell Minster which has THE most superb stone carvings in the Chapter House depicting foliage (all botanically correct) AND many Green Men. There is also a very rare example of a Green Woman. I'd heard of Southwell before but its now gone to the top of the list of places to visit.
2nd Edit - Found another Green Man - you might be able to make it out - one of my photos very heavily cropped!