Recently we wrote about the stained glass at St Georges-sur-Loire
. The current building dates to the Romanesque period [11th century] with early Mediaeval [12th/13th century] extensions. However, the very oldest part of the chapel was originally predominantly troglodyte and was hewn out of the soft stone cliff during the Merovingian period [5th to 8th centuries].
|Merovingian knotwork, south wall|
A rare survivor from this much earlier building is a stone which is now set into the south wall. Still pretty crisp even today, the carving is very reminiscent of Celtic knotwork such as can be see in the Lindisfarne Gospels from the late 7th century.
|Page from Lindisfarne Gospels
Earlier Roman designs such as can be found in mosaic floors also show a similar pattern, although perhaps a little less free flowing and intricate. An example is The Great Pavement in Woodchester Gloucestershire, once the floor of a main hall of a Roman villa, it was laid around AD 325.
|A section of The Great Pavement, © Wikipedia|
Presumably a mediaeval stonemason working several centuries after the stone was first carved felt it was beautiful enough to be worth saving and re-used it in the wall he was building. We are very glad he did so! You can see the stone on your right as you enter the chapel.
Duh! I'd never made a connection between Roman guilloche pattern mosaic and Celtic knots.
The most common carolignian remnant you see are the mysterious pairs of horses (presumably horses, anyway, although they mostly look like dogs). I think they are inserted as a sort of bet hedging move (just in case their god turned out to be better than your god - to paraphrase the Spitting Image song). It would be interesting to know what they symbolised, and what the medieval masons understood them to symbolise.
That blog post title was too good to pass up, wasn't it...
@Susan - Don't know much about this period really but I wonder if the styliised horses derive from a Viking influence.
[NB Merovingian is the period just before the Carolignian and the Merovingians are the lot that gets Christianised]
No we couldn't resist sorry! ;-)
It's really quite remarkable to not only appreciate the sheer skill those ancient artisans had, but the fact that they have survived for us to appreciate them today.
@Craig - not only that but the pattern feels 'modern' too.
We saw a lot of early Christian carvings in Scotland earlier this year that were quite similar to that. The knotwork is amazing.
@AJ - it is isn't it. It always reminds me of a mobius strip.
I love that Merovingian knotwork. It looks so modern!
Stunning new banner. Monet would love it!
@Chm - thank you! One does try ;-)
@Chm - it's a photo of the etang de Ribaloche, [more or less between Charnizay and Preuilly-sur-Claise]
I love the way fine work like this gets reused and preserved long after its original home has disappeared. The parish church where I was curate has some wonderful Gothic arches dividing the nave and the south aisle. These were "rescued" from a nearby Cistercian monastery after the Dissolution and re-erected - with jumbled capitals. :-)
@Perpetua - brilliant! a jumbled capitals puzzle to challenge visitors :-)
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