Wildlife in Wood
Natural History in the wood carvings of Southwell Minster’s Quire
M. Jill Lucas
Southwell Minster is renowned for being the home of the ‘Leaves of Southwell’. The remarkable 13th century carvings of flora and fauna in the Chapter House are a ‘Benedicte’ (1) in stone. Less celebrated but also worthy of attention are the late 19th century Simpson choir stalls. Generations of choristers have offered their thanks for ‘creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life’ (2) surrounded by a ‘Benedicte’ in wood.
The choir stalls themselves are an act of praise in which human life joins with the whole of creation. Birds, animals and plants depicted in meticulous and life-like detail swarm over the stalls. The quality of the carving is astonishing and Mike Painter MRSS., MCA. Ecclesiastical Master Carver writes:
“The carvings by Simpson and his assistants were inspired by the Chapter House and its entrance, incorporating similar execution, imagery and symbolism. Carved in solid oak which is difficult to carve because of its challenging fibrous structure, they represent the ultimate achievement of quality and technique found in this country.”
Jill Lucas’ guidebook explores the detail and symbolism of the carvings. It will enhance our delight and deepen our sense of the whole of life being represented and brought together in worship to acknowledge the glory of God.
Canon Nigel Coates
(1) The ‘Benedicte’ is an Anglican chant sung at Matins ‘All ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord’
(2) Words from the General Thanksgiving (Book of Common Prayer 1662)