Misericords of St Laurence – Part II

The Parish Church in Ludlow is famous for its 15th century misericords in the chancel stalls. These ignored carvings are found underneath choir stall seats and are mostly found in areas of the country whose wealth came from the medieval wool trade. The largest collection is housed at Salisbury Cathedral (106) compared to Hereford Cathedral (40) and the 28 intricately carved designs here in Ludlow.

Finally I have managed to get some decent photos of them all, so let me introduce you to them:

North Side 6 – 10

N6: The Antelope, gorged (the neck encircled by a coronet or collar) and chained is the personal badge of Henry VI in whose reign the misericords were carved. The grotesque masks either side are usually regarded as pagan imagery so an odd choice to accompany the Antelope. Leafed faces are often associated with the Green Man present at May Day celebrations. In a Christian context they are more likely to be a reminder against loose morals and sin.

N6
N6

N7: A bishop supported on either side by a mitre. Possibly a portrait of Thomas Spofford (1422-1448) during whose time the chancel was enlarged and whose name appears in the great east window.

N7
N7

N8: The three ostrich feathers have been the personal badge of the Prince of Wales since the mid sixteenth century. At the time of this carving it was the badge of the Black Prince, Edward of Woodstock who died in 1376 before he could succeed to the throne. He was father of Richard II (N10)

N8-PRINCE-OF-WALES
N8

N9: Here we have an ass preaching at the pulpit to a congregation of birds, geese and other farmyard animals. On the left two figures are whispering to one another having spotted the deception. The moral is about the gullible and foolish listening to false doctrine, a warning against the followers of Wycliffe, the Lollards.(John Wycliffe was concerned about the wealth of the clergy in the Middle Ages and not liked by the Church)

N9
N9

N10: The Hart at Rest is the badge of Richard II who was deposed by the first of the Lancastrian kings, Henry IV. The Yorkists regarded Richard as the last true legitimate monarch. In the heraldic version the Hart was white. The hounds on either side gave the idea of the chase.

N10
N10

Source of text: Historic Ludlow ” The Misericords and Choir Stalls” by Peter Klein (1986)

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Heyjude

I now live back in the UK, but spent several years travelling the world and then living in South Africa. I look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

21 thoughts on “Misericords of St Laurence – Part II”

  1. These are so interesting. It is a reminder that we are surrounded by so many symbols that tell a story that we know nothing about … well, I guess unless you are a historian.
    I have to admit that if I visited this church I would unlikely even notice these misericords, let alone understand what they mean!
    I think you’ve talked about the Green Man before and I’m really quite fascinated by the use of pagan imagery in Christian settings. It seems to me that face pops up in a lot of architecture as well.

    1. A lot of the earlier carvings reflect the pagan tales of morality, the later ones are more political. I wonder if there are any misericords in Canada? Apparently they are still being carved. Next time you are in a church have a look at the choir stalls 🙂

  2. “Here we have an ass preaching at the pulpit” Yeah, seen a few of those in my time.

    Okay, an end to silliness. You’ve done a stunning job with the photos, Jude. You can really see all the little details. Thanks so much for all the information too – absolutely fascinating.

    So glad to hear there are more to come!

    1. Thanks H. They are so beautiful I had to get a good photo of them all, actually I do have a missing one so need to go back. The interpretations are very interesting. I have puzzled over many of them until I bought the leaflet.

  3. Jude as you know I love the details you find. In our recent trip to Peru it was such details as these that had me far more fascinated than the massive mountains of gold and silver. In almost every case no photos of any kind were allowed inside the churches though.

    1. I don’t make it a regular feature of my life to go inside churches, in fact I pretty much avoided them for most of my life until I became interested in architecture. I never realised what a great place they are for finding out about social history.

  4. The chained antelope is such a strange choice for a personal badge, but I like the green man symbols. My favourite is the hart I hope it remained free. What fascinating stuff this is Jude, thanks for writing it so that it makes sense!

    1. They puzzled me for a while Gilly and I read some article that didn’t make much sense. This guy’s leaflet is well researched and I have picked out the pertinent details for each carving. I am trying to withstand the urge to look more into heraldry o_O

  5. Another amazing series of carvings and as others have mentioned I to knew next to nothing about this art form in churches. I like this group much better than your first which were so anti-woman. As you said, a great insight into the social history of the time.

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