A medieval stonemason’s selfie!

©Michael Garlick licenced under Creative Commons Licence. https://www.geograph.org.uk/stufflist.php?label=Norman+Font&gridref=ny1133

So far, during my explorations of churchyards and cemeteries, I have not yet found the name or initials of the stonemasons that created some of these beautiful carvings and symbols. In All Saints, Maidstone, however, there are two headstones dedicated to two stonemasons but they date from the 19th century.

However, the image above came from the Twitter account of Andrew Ziminski who is a stonemason by profession and he said:

‘The font at Bridekirk, Cumbria with its Anglo/Norse runes read something like “Rikarth he made me and brought me to this splendour”. So not only do we know the name of the mason/carver but also what he looked like from his ‘selfie’ where he is busy with mallet & (huge) chisel. (Andrew Ziminski @natchjourneyman.)

The church in question is St Bridget’s in Bridekirk and this is what its website has to say about it:

 ‘An unusual feature is the font, possibly from the earlier church.(this may have been the one built in 1130).  It is 12th century and is described as ‘perhaps the most finished and perfect remains of Northern culture in the Kingdom.’ It was carved by Richard of Durham and shows how old Nordic influences continued after the Nordic conquest.  One side depicts Richard at work with his hammer and chisel carving a flower and leaf.  It has an inscription which read, ‘Richard he me wrought and to this beauty me brought.’ The decoration is runic.  It depicts the baptism of Christ, Adam and Eve as well as strange beasts.’

It is a beautiful piece of carving and still looks reasonably crisp after all these centuries.  These two photos of the font in situ give an idea of its size.   The font has 4 sides: east, west, north and south.   It’s the East side that has the Runic script which is a Germanic script form.  Runic script tends towards vertical symbols which enabled masons to carve into the grain of wood or stone.    Note the size of the mallet and chisel that Richard holds.

©Michael Garlick licenced under Creative Commons Licence. https://www.geograph.org.uk/stufflist.php?label=Norman+Font&gridref=ny1133

©Michael Garlick licenced under Creative Commons Licence. https://www.geograph.org.uk/stufflist.php?label=Norman+Font&gridref=ny1133

South face top panel:  This is a Greek cross with acanthus leaf decoration.  Again, the church guidebook suggests that ‘it may be derived from the Easter rite in which a plain cross was taken into the church  to be replaced by one with jewels and leaves to represent ‘Christ arisen.’

South face: lower panel: This features 2 types of griffin flanking a large floral roundel

These are some of the other images on the font:

©Michael Garlick licenced under Creative Commons Licence. https://www.geograph.org.uk/stufflist.php?label=Norman+Font&gridref=ny1133

West face upper panel: This has a headless centaur who has hold of the foreleg of another beat and on his right, an eagle is attacking him.

©Michael Garlick licenced under Creative Commons Licence. https://www.geograph.org.uk/stufflist.php?label=Norman+Font&gridref=ny1133

West face lower panel:  according to the guidebook, ‘this shows Adam and Eve being expelled from Eden by an angry God wielding a sword. Eve is at the foot of the tree but there is no serpent.’

Amongst other images on the other faces of the font is a monster with 2 serpent like heads with the left hand one biting the creature’s own body.
On North face lower panel: According to the church guidebook, ‘John the Baptist immerses a rather miffed looking Christ while the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove touches his head.  They are surrounded by vines and leaves.’

©http://www.greatenglishchurches.co.uk/html/bridekirk.html

©Oliver Dixon shared under Creative Commons Licence via Geograph.

And here is the font in all its glory with its lid although it’s obviously not the original.

This is an amazing survivor although Bridekirk is a little out of the way and maybe the 16th century iconoclasts didn’t get up that far. A beautiful font and I will be looking at them more closely in future to see if I can identify another self-promoting medieval stone mason.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

Reference and further reading:

https://www.bridekirkparish.org.uk/bridekirk-church

http://www.greatenglishchurches.co.uk/html/bridekirk.html

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