This handsome feller is from the inside of the church of St Peter and St Paul, the Norman church next to Peasmarsh Place.
The village of Peasmarsh is a mile from the church. Legend blames the Black Death. Originally, homes were built all around the church, as usual. But when the Plague came, they burned the houses to the ground and rebuilt a mile off. The rector had three symbols carved into the church to keep death away: a stag to ward off rats from the drains, a unicorn to keep plague from the door, and a bird to keep plague from coming in the roof.
Or so they say.
This guy, however, is a leopard — one of two on either side of the arch leading to the altar. It was his job to protect from leprosy. There was a lot of it about.
I love exploring village churches. They are traditionally kept unlocked, and they’re chock full of Norman bits and weird pagan-y iconography.
Christianity came to Britain bass-ackwards — the early evangelists were told not to disparage pagan tradition, but to quietly absorb it. By, for example, building churches near sacred trees and groves.
The result is kind of Jesus meets Harry Potter. I honestly don’t know how else to describe it.
We recently watched a very interesting BBC program called Churches: How To Read Them on the history of British church imagery. Presented by a man with a seriously annoying lisp.
BBC loves doing that.