Canterbury Cathedral is an enormously complex artifact in many different dimensions of time, space and thought. Guides and guidance are needed to understand it. But not all guidance is the same. Even the ‘facts’ are often disputed and there are multiple layers of analysis often at tension and contradiction with each other.
This is one of the miracle windows in the north aisle and shows the trials and tribulations of Jordan, son of Eisulf, a powerful knight and friend of Thomas Becket, once the archbishop of Canterbury. Becket was murdered in 1170 on the orders of (?) Henry II. He was rapidly canonised and became St Thomas.
Pilgrims who had visited Becket’s tomb in the cathedral arrived at the Fitz-Eisulf household where one of the sons had died. They provided Canterbury Water – believed to include the blood of Becket – and the son revived. But Jordan failed on his promise to visit the shrine to pay an indulgence. More misfortune befell the family. Eventually he went and can be seen putting gold on Becket’s tomb. It seems miracles had to be paid for in money terms.
Care had to be taken with the blood association, after all, there was the tale of the blood of Christ. Miracles also had to be handled with care by the church authorities. There appears to have been a tension between the power of miracles on the minds of the peasantry and the wish by the church to control the power of miracles. But the message of providing money to the church was clear.
One of the cathedral guides explained the story. From memory it starts in the bottom right hand oval and then works round in a clockwise direction. But when the guide arrived at the top right oval, he took the story back to an earlier point. It wasn’t clear whether this was deliberate or not but it did provide a different mental process of following a story than any I’ve previously encountered. And suggested that the medieval mind worked in a different way to the modern mind. It was illuminating in a way that perhaps was not intended.
Two examples of medieval graffiti in the stairwell which connects the Nave to the South Choir Aisle. The lower photograph shows what appears to be a heraldic shield. That seems understandable enough, even to the modern mind.
But what of the geometric pattern? There are various theories about these shapes (which are increasingly being ‘discovered’ in churches all over England). At the moment theories are mainly what they are. They seem of a different time and idiom of the stained glass windows which were created around 1200.
I also discovered that taking photographs of stained glass windows takes some thought. It was a useful exercise in getting to know yet more about the excellent Affinity Photo software.
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