The Leaves of Southwell
The Leaves of Southwell at Southwell Minster have been voted #1 in the Association of English Cathedrals’ prestigious #CathedralTreasures competition. Find out more>>
The fluid carvings of plants, animals and green men found within the Chapter House – known collectively as ‘The Leaves of Southwell’ – are of quite exceptional quality. Regarded as the best example of 13th century naturalistic carving in the United Kingdom, they are globally important.
It is seventy years since Sir Nicholas Pevsner wrote his classic King Penguin Monograph about the Leaves. It is rightly celebrated; but Pevsner limited his attention to only half the carvings and did not write about the artistic religious and mythological significance of the sculptures. We now know a great deal more about the Chapter House and its positioning near ancient well springs that supplied baptismal pools and believe this may have significant bearing on the interpretation and symbolism of the carvings. They also provide a unique backdrop to our environmental concerns.
The Leaves of Southwell Project
The Chapter House and its Leaves needed protection from leaking roofs and lacked appropriate heating and environmental controls. In addition, modern lighting has been installed (there was none at all before) and an imaginative interpretation scheme has been implemented, helping the Leaves of Southwell become much more accessible and widely known to future generations. It is our belief that they represent not only wonderful heritage but also an extraordinary resource today. An incredible cantilever lift has also been installed, making the Chapter House fully accessible for the first time in its 700+ year history!
We are extremely grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund who awarded us a grant of £2.2m to help implement these works to deliver the project in a way that will protect, interpret and better present these beautiful and historic medieval carvings for future generations. Many thanks also to The Friends of Southwell Cathedral, and all other donors who have helped make this dream a reality.