Churches are well accustomed to being knocked about here in the UK. Look at Henry VIII, trashing all the gorgeous places of worship which belonged to the monasteries; or Oliver Cromwell, who ordered all graven images smashed, as they remain to this day.
I can think of few old churches which do not retain the scars of English history. But there is one cathedral – Lincoln – which bears one of the strangest signs of all that it was once, reputedly, defaced.
The vandal in question is said not even to have been human. No: Satan sent one of his very own imps to charge the cathedral doors and sprint down to the Angel Choir, a gorgeous structure to house the singers during services.
The imp created havoc. He was breaking off bits of the choir and throwing them at the people below, and it simply would not do.
This was an opinion shared by The Almighty, who could not have his cathedral shown up as defenceless by a minion from the opposite side.
So he sent a brawny angel with a repertoire of fabulous powers.
The imp led the angel a dance. Up pillars, down sheer walls, dancing on the faces of the masonry and woodwork.
Finally, the angel had had enough. He was not an angel who liked games of chase. And so he raised his magic brawny angel staff and shook it furiously at the little imp who had got so far under his skin.
The creature had just reached the top of a pillar beneath a sea of fronds of stone. And there, in the crook of an arch, Satan’s smallest minion was turned, mid-mischief, to stone.
Needless to say, it took a very long time to clear the havoc caused by the little imp; and he still sits there, at the top of the pillar, daring the angel one two many times.
He is not the only face up there. Lincoln has some rather wonderful mediaeval faces, many of which I met today.
A few for your perusal.