Thursday, August 11, 2016

The leaves of Southwell revisited

Years ago I blogged about a visit to Southwell and quoted Nikolaus Pevsner book The Leaves of Southwell, which is about the carvings in the Minster's chapter house:
Could these leaves of the English countryside, with all their freshness, move us so deeply if they were not carved in that spirit which filled the saints and poets and thinkers of the thirteenth century, the spirit of religious respect for the loveliness of created nature? 
The inexhaustible delight in live form that can be touched with worshipping fingers and felt with all senses is ennobled ... by the conviction that so much beauty can exist only because God is an every man and beast, in every herb and stone. The Renaissance in the South two hundred years later was perhaps once again capable of such worship of beauty, but no firm faith was left to strengthen it. 
Seen in this light, the leaves of Southwell assume a significance as one of the purest symbols surviving in Britain of Western thought, our thought, in its loftiest mood.
The leaves are indeed lovely, but there are green men in the chapter house too.

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