Throughout the English countryside one can still find many ancient churches from the Medieval age: from small village parish chapels to vast Cathedrals and Abbeys. Built by the master masons of the Dark Ages they sow the style and decoration of the age: the vaulted ceiling, the spire, the tower, the stained glass window, the tiled floor and the Gargoyle. Originally an embellished water spout leading from a gutter, the gargoyle appears through out these churches, outside and in: high on ceilings, on the capitals of columns, at doorways, and on bench ends.
Over the period they became increasingly elaborate and complex. Faces divine and grotesque, mocking and humorous these are snapshots on the medieval mind which amuse and puzzle us still. What do these creatures mean? Why are such profane and grotesque images found in such places of reverence? There are many theories but few firm answers. One of the most puzzling and contradictory of images is that of the Greenman. Seemingly this figure (usually just a face) emerging from leaves or made of leaves or even spewing leaves from an open mouth is an ancient pagan image, harking back to an age of Green Magic. Why then does he appear so frequently in Christian Churches?
The Greenman is said to embody the life force of rebirth: that after the Death of Winter Spring must return and bring with it the Sun and Growth and Plenty. The life of medieval man had few certainties and comforts: the longing for a good Harvest and belief in the power of the Greenman may well have been too strong for the arrival of Christianity to suppress. Thus he can be found in almost every church in England if only one knows where to look.
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