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Yes, that Ragnarok

This is one of the doors to All Saints Church, Staplehurst, Kent. The ironwork depicts Ragnarok, the Norse apocalypse.

The South door of Staplehurst church illustrates the Scandinavian myth of Doomsday, when the serpent which holds the world together will loosen its grip on its own tail, the world will fall apart, and chaos will ensue. The fish will jump on land. The gods will fight. Only one man and one woman will be spared to start the world again. Surt the sunwheel is top centre. Above flies Nithoggr, who eats the dead, and above him is the small cross which turns the pagan myth into Christian art.

The only door in England resembling this one is at Stillingfleet, ten miles south of York, in the middle of what was Danish-held territory in 1000 AD. Taken from Canon Walker’s 1938 edition of the Church Guide.

From A Brief History of Staplehurst from Acorn to Oak (pdf). (The Stillingfleet door is pretty special, too).

The door has been reliably dated to around 1050; the church was built in 1100. Perhaps the door came from somewhere else, or perhaps there’s enough wiggle in the dating that it really was made for the church.

The big-C Church – in Britain, anyway – was remarkably chill about mixing in ancient pagan-y bits. Remember this Mithraic altarstone in the little village church? Elizabeth I had a court astrologer (though Mary had him imprisoned once for the crime of doing math, the blackest of arts).

Not my photo, alas. But Staplehurst is close enough — just — for a day trip. Maybe when the days get longer again.

October 26, 2022 — 6:17 pm
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