Saturday, 10 February 2018

Burnham Deepdale's Medieval Moon

On the north Norfolk coast there is a trail of six Saxon churches that are sometimes called "The Six Churches of the Saxon Shore Benefice".  St Mary's church at Burnham Deepdale which forms part of the Benefice has Saxon origins and the round church tower is typically Saxon. I visited the church this week going cross country through the Creakes via some very winding B roads. Although it was cold it was a sunny winter's day and perfect for photography.
At the front of the church, which is open to visitors in daylight hours, there is a small porch which contains two stained glass windows dating from the fifteenth century. One window (the one that can be seen on the photo above) contains an image of the Sun and the other an image of the Moon.  It is thought that they were originally part of a triptych and flanked a crucifixion scene but now they are located in the porch. Here are two photos I took of the windows this week.
The Sun image has the face of young golden haired boy and the Moon image has feminine features. In the fifteenth century although there were no telescopes and the Moon could only be viewed with the unaided eye it must have been apparent to every observer on Earth that the lunar surface had light and dark patches (c.f. Dante's Divine Comedy ibid 16th September 2017) and did not possess a human face. Yet apart from a few paintings by van Eyck and one surviving sketch by Leonardo da Vinci every drawing or representation of the Moon prior to the one by William Gilbert in 1603 shows a face superimposed on a circular or crescent shape. It has always struck me as strange that our ancestors never attempted to accurately draw the image that they could see in the night sky. Possibly because the Moon could be seen virtually every night no one bothered to make an accurate representation of it. In the modern era our concept of art has changed and movements like Dadaism and Pop Art have made capturing the images of everyday objects such as Coke bottles or tins of soup into art that can be exhibited and sold in galleries.  

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