Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Southwark Cathedral's Monuments

Southwark Cathedral cares for its monuments-

Some of the older ones are a bit knocked about but where feasible they've been lovingly restored, tastefully painted and presented to us in a condition little short of pristine. Here's an example- the memorial to John Bingham- a mover and shaker in his day- who leans out from his little balcony, high up on the wall of the south transept- observing the comings and goings far below. Short of bumping into them on the astral this is just about as close as we can come on this side of the great divide to encountering an ancestor face to face.

I don't know who the sculptor was but he was clearly a master. The Bankside, where the Cathedral stands, hosted the workshops of a number of Dutch and Flemish artists who had sought sanctuary from the religious wars and persecutions of continental Europe. I doubt that members of the present government are used to thinking back to the 17th century- but here's a clear example- from the history they're so proud of when it suits their agenda- of how immigrants have enriched our "Great British" culture.

The finest monument in the building is by the greatest English sculptor of his day, Nicholas Stone. It's a complicated thing- a presentation in stone of an elaborate conceit about angels harvesting souls at the Last Judgement which was almost certainly worked out by the man who commissioned it (in memory of his mother Joyce)- a once celebrated writer of devotional poems and prose meditations called William Austin. The design was so much admired that a punter in Essex asked Stone's workshop to produce a scaled down and markedly inferior version for All Saints Church, Writtle (which I've seen but not liked nearly as much.) Here's the original. Stone's sexually ambiguous harvester angels are creations of wonder and desire....


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