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date: 20 August 2019

Kilpeck Churchlocked

  • Malcolm Thurlby


English parish church in Hereford and Worcester dedicated to SS Mary and Paul. The architectural sculpture of Kilpeck is the best-preserved example of the ‘Herefordshire school’ of Romanesque carving; the south doorway, chancel arch, apse boss, west window and corbels are all richly carved. The church is of sandstone. It was probably built c. 1134, when it was given to St Peter’s Abbey, Gloucester (now the cathedral). The sculptors had probably worked at Shobdon Church after 1131 (and one was previously employed at Tewkesbury Abbey). The Kilpeck sculpture reflects many other influences; the positioning of figures carved in relief one above the other on the jamb-shafts of the chancel arch recalls a similar feature on the Puerta de las Platerías, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, which had been visited by Oliver de Merlimond, founder of Shobdon, c. 1131. Superimposed figures also occur on the doorway, although here they are intertwined in foliage, as at Shobdon, and have characteristic ‘Herefordshire school’ ribbed draperies and Phrygian caps. The basic form and geometric decoration of the doorway are similar to the work of the ‘Dymock school’, while from Hereford Cathedral come the foliate motifs and large egg-shaped heads and clinging draperies of the chancel arch figures. The beakheads and medallions of the doorway reflect Reading Abbey, perhaps through the lost cloister of its daughter-house, Leominster Priory. The radiating voussoirs and certain corbels betray western French sources (e.g. Aulnay-de-Saintonge), and the unusual form of the paired columns of the doorway is paralleled in the cloister of St Aubin at Angers, although the interlacing serpents on the outer shafts and crocodile-like heads projecting from the west wall are Scandinavian-inspired. One of its most famous sculptures is the celebrated Sheela-na-Gig corbel figure, a rare example of this motif outside of Ireland....

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