A misericord is the ledge on the underside of a tip up seat in a choir stall that gives the stall's occupant something to perch on during the upstanding bits of the service. Misericords are often beautifully carved and- presumably because they weren't on open display- the carvers were allowed to have fun with them. Holy Trinity, Stratford has a fine 15th century set. While Ailz attended the OU Shakespeare society's annual general meeting last Saturday I snuck out and took some photographs.
These are mermen, I think. The one centre right looks a lot like one of those hoaxes known as feejees which consist of the upper bit of a dried monkey stitched to the lower part of a dried fish.
This is outrageous stuff. On the left a man and woman fighting- he pulls her hair, she kicks him in the nuts, in the centre a figure I'm guessing to be the Whore of Babylon but which a site I consulted describes as a sphinx, and on the right a naked man birching a naked woman whose leg is being eaten by a dog.
My favourite. A woman in bed flanked by flying monsters. I like to think she's dreaming them.
It's awfully hard these days to get as close one wants to the Misericords. I so wanted to photograph some of the racier ones we saw last week in Zamora but photos weren't allowed and we couldn't get close enough to them to even see them properly.
That's a shame- about Zamora, I mean. Most English cathedrals will sell you a photography permit. Access to things like misericords differs from place to place. In some they're roped off, in others you can wander through the stalls and flip the seats up and down.
The Stratford misericords are as fine as any I've come across.
The bishop of the diocese of Zamora has decreed that no photography whatsoever is allowed inside any church or religious building (monastery, convent), not even with a permit. Most places in Spain allow at least non-flash photography so this was frustrating. And they watch with eagle eyes. I got one surreptitious photo inside a church but many outside which I'm working on posting eventually.
Wonderful! I never would have expected such displays in a church, albeit in a such a hard to see place. Is this why there is no photography allowed in so many churches -- or at least restricted access to the misericords? These are national treasures and should be made available to the public.
Well, the medievals had a different idea of what was appropriate in church. There's a lot of weird stuff tucked away in odd corners- none of it exactly hidden- but usually placed low down or high up- where you have to search it out.
No, that's not why the authorities don't always allow photography; that's more to do with respect and not having flashes going off all the time. A lot of churches are happy with cameras- and sometimes the bigger ones make you buy a permit.
The misericords in Holy Trinity are on full display. If people don't notice them it's because they're too busy looking at Shakespeare's grave.