Walking home last Monday I took a detour past the Cathedral to have another look for the remaining five original, medieval statues. I was pretty sure that I’d found two on the northwest tower – one nameless woman next to Eve and another to the left of Deborah. The Victorian statues tend to have names on their pedestals. There’s an old photograph of the western front of the Cathedral pre-restoration on the English Heritage Viewfinder website, which you can see here. It shows the front looking strangely bare – above the row of kings only the niches containing the few remaining original statues are filled.
According to a comment someone left on here, there are other statues on the other side of the north west tower. Unfortunately, my timing wasn’t great as someone was cutting the grass alongside the tower and a Midlands Today van had not long pulled up nearby and were making preparations to film (I later found out they were there to cover the Olympic Torch route story). As I didn’t fancy making a cameo appearance, dodging the mower in the background of a news report, I took a hasty few photos of the tower and carried on around the back of the Cathedral. Stupidly, I didn’t check them before I got home and it’s not easy to make out much. Another trip is in order….
The medieval statue hunt continued as I walked around, in case one had sneaked in somewhere other than the northwest tower. I found Christopher Wren, Elias Ashmole and Dr Johnson amongst others along the way.
Most of the statues are accompanied by something symbolic – Johnson of course has his dictionary. It’s the same for the kings (e.g. William the Conqueror holds the Domesday Book) and the biblical characters (I knew nothing about Deborah, but according to wikipedia she was a prophet and a judge and delivered her verdicts near a palm tree which explains why there’s one behind her statue). I was wondering about Eve? Surely that’s an apple near her foot but what is she holding in her hand? Imagine if you someone was to create a statue of you and they had to sum up your life with an object or two!
Just past Dr Johnson and his big, papery thing is another statue. She has no name and as far as I can see there is no clue to her identity. I’m speculating, but is this one of the many statues destroyed or defaced by the parliamentary troops during the Civil War? Most of the other damaged statues were removed – where did they end up I wonder? I came across some great photos of a figure of Christ on Aidan McRae Thomson’s flickrstream at a church in Swynnerton, Staffordshire together with an interesting theory that the statue originated from Lichfield Cathedral. If anyone else has any theories or even evidence of where the statues ended up, I’d love to hear them!
I have to confess that for me, sometimes the Cathedral is just there, part of the scenery as I go about the city. However, there are other times when, either by chance (catching the light a certain way) or by design (medieval statue hunting), the Cathedral commands my full attention and once again, I am reminded of what an incredible building this is, and the skill and talent of the craftspeople who made it so.