Monday, 16 April 2012

Malmesbury at Easter

Discovering Malmesbury Abbey was one of the highlights of a few days away last week. Only a quarter of the original building remains - on the left there should be a west front where windows are now open to the sky, and on the right there should be a central tower with a tall spire and then a whole chancel to the east.

The graceful lines and inclinations of the figures in the twelfth century carvings within the south porch are famous. Only St Peter on the right (clean shaven and tonsured like the monks of the Abbey) has suffered significant damage: his feet have been hacked away to stop people kissing them.

But it was the series of heavily eroded biblical episodes round the opening of the porch which entranced us most, and almost best of all is this still lifeless Adam being drawn by God out of the mud with his feet not yet fully formed.

Here a central angel gives expelled Adam and Eve a spade and a distaff - an unusual image to be echoed a couple of hundred years later in the Peasants’ Revolt’s ‘When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then a gentleman?’.

And then, almost most exquisite of all, further round we came to the gentleness and grief of these figures in this representation of the entombment of Christ; one can almost believe there are tears in the eyes of the right hand figure.

After which, for Easter week, there is this purposeful resurrection scene, with the risen Lord's banner flowing behind him .

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