March 8, 2007 at 4:36 pm (Arthur Mee, gargoyle, Haxan, Rochester Cathedral)

More bookwork and less legwork – this time Arthur Mee and “The King’s EnglandKent – The Gateway of England and its Great Possessions” [Arthur Mee – Hodder and Stoughton 1947] where I read on p375:

** If we are allowed to leave by the ruins of the cloister, to see the grinning faces looking down from the wall and the ancient arches in the deanery, we feel that we are in a quiet and far-off world. The little path runs by the old Norman arches and the west front of the chapter house, with its pillared doorway and three great arches above it. On the doorway is a demon putting out his tongue at the monks as they came into the chapter house.

When I came to seek this impudent demon, I found two of them, one on each side of the doorway. One of them (with impressive curlicue horns… see above) seems to have lost his face – either because some pious individual became irritated by the relentless tongue-waggling (like the Devil in the peerless 1920 Danish film “Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages“) and smashed his face off, or possibly more likely the relentless pollution sluicing down across its ugly mug have eroded it beyond repair.

His brother, facing him since 1080CE, is similarly disfigured although his horns too still stand proud and visible, if his tongue has long since shrivelled – perhaps with no monks to leer at anymore the game became too unrewarding. Jaded school-parties with clip boards are too CGI-savvy to be shocked by a stone devil and his tongue. The only other person (apart from the bored children and I) in the cloisters this afternoon when I went to take these photographs was a late middle-aged woman sitting on a bench working her way through a copy of Puzzler magazine. Probably they just realised their diabolic work on Earth was done.

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