Monday, March 22, 2010

Romanesque capitals, Leominster

click photo to enlarge
It is customary for English Romanesque and Gothic churches to have a west door, which, though it is used much less than the south door (usually entered through a porch), is nonetheless bigger and more ornate. The west door was used much more in medieval times when processions figured larger in the ceremonial of the church. They are used occasionally today, but for the most part they remain closed except where they are still the main entrance, and then the large doors usually have a smaller one that is inset.

West doors are taller and wider than any other door in a church, and the columns, arches and capitals that surround them are often highly decorated. Today's photograph shows the capitals on the north side of the west door of the Priory of St Peter & St Paul at Leominster, Herefordshire. These were carved around 1140, and stylistically are Late Norman (Romanesque). The main carving is above a piece of rope moulding that encircles the column. They show a bird, a man who looks like he is tending plants, and a snake. Each figure is part of an elaborate interlace. The side of each capital that faces south, and which we can't see, has these motifs repeated and affronted. Above these remarkable carvings is an abacus decorated with bead, a sort of flat dogtooth and triangular leaves. The fertility of imagination and the crude liveliness of Norman carving has always held a fascination for me, and I couldn't let my visit to this fine building pass without securing this image.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 25mm (50mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/250
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On