God's Flowers
An Iconography for Foliage Decoration

Introduction
 
God's Flowers
 

Extracts from
God's Flowers

 

Links

Introduction

Often dismissed as ‘mere decoration’, carvings of flowers and foliage in Medieval Churches and Cathedrals have escaped critical attention. In recent years, however, there has been a growing realisation that these carvings represent a sophisticated iconography that evolved over a period of some four centuries to symbolise varied and subtle themes in the religious understanding of the day.

In Romanesque (for England, equivalent to Norman) times, foliage was used to express the idea of paradise and the New Life made possible by Christianity. The Gothic church refined these ideas so that each species could symbolise a whole theme of thought. Such ideas seem to find their earliest expression at Chartres. They were developed very fully at Reims, completed in the early 14th Century. Confidence in such expression could have come from earlier inspired authorities such as Albertus Magnus and Hildegard v. Bingen.

These were Catholic times and the Virgin Mary had attained new peaks of veneration. All flowers were dedicated to Mary, some more so than others. The stories about Mary, her Immaculate Conception, Christ’s conception, His birth and the early Flight into Egypt, many of them to be found in the Apocryphal gospels, provided a rich source for metaphors that could be translated into pictures. The carvers gave of their best to produce some very intricate and lovely work. They were undoubtedly guided by a spiritual plan that probably emanated from a subcommittee of the Chapter and architect, or their equivalents in those days. Confidence in such expression could have come from earlier inspired authorities such as Albertus Magnus and Hildegard v. Bingen.

Charlesfort Press has produced three books on this fascinating subject.

The first, ‘God’s Beasts’, examines the carvings of animals that can be found in churches and Cathedrals. Regrettably, this book is now out of print.

The second book, ‘The Flowers of Exeter’, presents the iconography visible in the many floral carvings contained in the roof-bosses and corbels of Exeter Cathedral.  This book is now also out of print.

Completing the trilogy, ‘God’s Flowers’, published in 2012 as a large-format paperback book, gives a comprehensive insight into some sixty of the floral species that are represented in medieval ecclesiastical carvings across Europe, with carefully-researched explanations of their iconographic significance in the context of the religious understanding of the times.

 

Introduction   God's Flowers

Extracts from
God's Flowers

  Links