It was the day they took me looking for the Ent and the Thunder Stone… they’d promised me three sites and they only ended up finding two. That’s all well and good, ‘cause it means we’ll have to trot back out there looking for the Hawk Stone at some point… but they’d said three. I reminded them of this as we drove home… a bit of judicious whimpering goes a long way with my two-legses… and eventually, she took the hint and pulled up in a little village street.
She said that she had been here before, but had never properly written about it, ‘cause she’d ended up in the wars that day. For me, though, it was different. They’ve never taken me to a church before and I was really curious about why they turned into churchaholics. So, I dusted off my nose, opened my ears and listened. I still think it was dead mean that they wouldn’t let me do more than stick my nose inside… they said it was so I didn’t disturb anyone, even though the place was empty… and that not everyone thinks dogs should be allowed in churches. Even though their Book says their God created me too… Dead mean.
Anyway, we had a good wander round the churchyard first, and there was plenty for me to ‘vestigate there, so we were off to a good start. Other dogs, squirrelly things and rabbits… and lots of old stones and big yew trees. That’s when she started squeaking. She likes yew trees…
They said there had been a church here since about 850 AD, but that this church was only about nine hundred years old and built by the Normans. There are old arched doorways that come from that time, but a lot of the church has been altered and added to over the years.
Then they took me round to the front porch and she did a lot of squeaking… even though she had been here before. She couldn’t have missed the big Norman doorway with its carvings round the arch, or the four heads holding up the ceiling… though she had forgotten that one of the ‘heads’ was a bat.
But ‘pparently, she hadn’t even noticed the rosette of head corbels in the middle of the ceiling where the ribs join up. It was a long time ago… they had barely started on the churches then… but she noticed this time and it really made her squeak.
I stayed outside with him as she went in. I caught a glimpse of the octagonal font then, that is six hundred years old, and the old wheeled bier they use for carrying coffins, parked against the wall.
The church was still full of greenery for Christmas, and I thought it looked really nice. Then, I heard her muttering under her breath… “They’ve modernised it…” so I beat a hasty retreat. Those are not good words for her to be saying in an ancient church… I’ve heard her talk about that before and usually with words not suited to a small dog’s ears…
When she came out eventually, she was pleased though. Said they’d done a really sympathetic job of it… no microwave ovens in the nave…and she loved the new mosaic reredos that had only just been installed.
Now, okay, she might have been talking in a foreign language for all that meant to me, so I asked. ‘pparently, a reredos is the bit behind the altar and the mosaics told the story of St Kenelm, for whom the church was named.
So, I wanted to get a look at the mosaics, which also show scenes from Jesus’ life. And I knew I’d get another look now it was his turn to go inside. He’s a pushover at table, but she’s easier to manage the rest of the time. So, I let her tell me about the carved columns and heads all around the church. Then, she told me his story while we waited.
“Kenelm was one of the most revered saints of the Middle Ages,” she said, “though he is not much known today. He was crowned King of Mercia in 798, when he was just twelve years old. Legend says that he saw a tree in his dream and climbed up into its branches. There he saw the four corners of his kingdom, and while three did homage to him, one took an axe to the tree. The young king dreamed that he flew from the falling tree in the form of a white dove, that carried in its beak a scroll, warning of the little king’s murder.
“The king’s sister had bribed her lover to kill the king. When Kenelm, out hunting, rested beneath a tree, the lover began to dig a grave. The boy-king told him that he knew of his plans, but that he would not die there, so the digging was in vain. As he spoke, he thrust his staff into the ground and it burst into leaf and flower.
“Sadly, some time later, in the hills, as the young king sung praises to his God, the lover took up his blade and cut off the king’s head and buried him where he lay.
Kenelm’s soul flew to Rome in the form of a dove, carrying a scroll that told of the murder. The Pope sent out a search party for the body and found it because a milk cow would lie on the grave every night and a shaft of light pointed the way. When the body was found, a spring rose up from the ground where Kenelm had lain.”
She told me about the old memorial built into a step too, and about the William Morris window that commemorated the war dead of the village. Then I started whimpering and trying to open the door…and after a while, she caved and opened it to let me look.
She showed me a Simeon window… they get excited about these…
…and pointed out the seventeenth century painted glass windows.
I managed to get a good look at a strangely painted memorial to a guy called Stevens Wisdom, who is kneeling and looking at the date of his own death in 1633. A bit unnecessary, I would have thought…
I would really have liked a better look, but maybe there are churches they can take me to where I can see a bit more. I can see why they like them so much. Loads of history and loads of that symbolism stuff I hear them talking about for hours when I sit under the table…
Anyway, we had a last wander in the churchyard and then headed home. It had been a good day.
I’m happy to go on adventures with them… it keeps them out of trouble 😉
But I might let her write up the churches… all these words are a bit hard on the old paws.
Wonder if she can take dictation?