VISIT | Musing Over the Medieval Miserichords of Ripple | Worcestershire
More than just art but life
A rare religious work of art in the village church of Ripple in Worcestershire
It tells the story of medieval rural life in pictures and symbols
Startlingly brilliant for something made of wood
"...these fascinating pieces of art and culture..."
The tiny village of Ripple is at the southern edge of Worcestershire, close to the border with Gloucestershire, very near to the River Severn. It is a village with several historical claims to be better known.
During the English civil War, in 1643 there was an engagement at Ripple between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians. It became known as the Battle of Ripple Field and although nothing more than a skirmish, the Royalists were the victors on this day.
But explore further and take a visit to the local village church, St. Mary's. It is a very pretty church like many to be found in this part of England. But the real unexpected delights are to be found once you enter the church. Inside you will find a more substantial historical monument. For St Mary's church contains one of the finest examples of ‘Misericords’ to be found in Britain.
What are misericords?
Misericords, sometimes called ‘mercy seats’ were small wooden seats placed in churches and other places of worship to provide relief to clergymen who had to remain standing for long periods during extended religious services.
There are fourteen Misericords seats at St Mary’s Church in Ripple, presented as two groups of seven fixed seats either side of the chancel just in front of the altar. They were carved from wood and constructed in the 14th or 15th centuries. And the seats and their surrounding structure have pver time developed a very unique colour – part dark umber, part a dark ebony. The individual carvings above each seat are very dramatic, standing proud, carved as they are in high relief.
There are fourteen different carvings on the Misericord seats at Ripple, but interestingly, they depict scenes that are not religious but secular – even pagan – in origin. The scenes are twelve representations of the different activities that took place over the year of the medieval farming calendar – ranging from collecting dead wood in January, through sowing seeds in March, to reaping the crops in August, finally to spinning wool by the fire in December. There are two additional seats; one depicting the rising Sun and one depicting the sleeping Moon representing the daily cycle of farming life.
If you want to discover an example of medieval art and artistry in all its original glory then take a trip to St. Marys Church, Ripple. There you can gaze in wonder at the Misericords – the ‘mercy seats’ - and reflect on all the clergy who have rested there over the ages.
And for more on Ripple Church - discover the roots of the Sealed Knot - the re-enactors of the English Civil War...
Directions and Map |
Find the church in the little riverside village of Ripple