Did you spot him?
The unspeakable, the horror-shadow, lurking in the church?
Yesterday I took you for a walk round St Nicholas, Hurst, a jewel amongst churches, filled with mediaeval tracery and Tudor splendour, suffused with warmth and colour form the past and present alike.
But amongst it all, amongst that gorgeous creativity stretching back over the centuries, there was a horror, all right.
They stay back in the shadows, and wait their time. But as the days draw in he will no longer spend more than half of the day in sunlight or the aquatint of a stained glass window reflection. Soon, he will be back where he is most powerful.
In the shadows.
I noticed something strange about the grotesques at St Nicholas. Some of them were in layers. There would be a naive one at the bottom, then something more human, more acceptable. And occasionally there would be another.
This one stood out, if you had the antennae to detect him. A creature emerging from the stone and plaster without the need to refine his shape to render himself acceptable to a congregation. One folks don’t always see, because his story might be just a little too potent, or ancient, or evil, for our sensibilities.
Is he waiting for All Hallows Eve?
The term ‘grotesque’ is a Renaissance one. It did not emerge until it crawls across the pages of a contract for a library: the Piccolomini Library at Siena. Grottesche were part of the Vatican Palace: but the term began to be used for the older creatures which peer out from Mediaeval walls.
The grotesque inspires complicated feelings in its beholder. Not just a feeling of the bizarre, but a feeling of empathy. Without empathy, the monstrous simply becomes the monster.
And so I have a question for you, as we enter the month of October, when hobgoblins are not unheard of and wraiths gather their own wispy momentum. And it is this: is this particular creature a monster; or a grotesque?