Misericords At St Katharine’s Chapel
Tutivillus the demon eavesdropping upon two women
I spent yesterday morning on my knees in St Katharine’s Chapel in Limehouse, photographing these rare survivors of fourteenth century sculpture, believed to have been created around 1360 for the medieval St Katharine’s Chapel next to the Tower of London, which was displaced and then demolished for the building of the docks in 1825.
These marvellous carvings evoke a different world and another sensibility, combining the sacred and profane in grotesque and fantastical images that speak across time as emotive and intimate expressions of the human imagination. I am particularly fascinated by the sense of mutability between the human and animal kingdom in these sculptures, manifesting a vision of a mythic universe of infinite strange possibility which was once familiar to our forebears.
Intriguingly, these misericords appear to have been created by the same makers who carved those at Lincoln and Chester cathedrals, and a friary in Coventry.
After a sojourn of over a hundred years in Regent’s Park, the Royal Foundation of St Katharine, originally founded by Queen Matilda in 1147, moved back to the East End to Limehouse in 1948 where it flourishes today, offering an enclave of peace and reflection, sequestered from the traffic roaring along the Highway on one side and Commercial Rd on the other.
Centaur with club and shield
Tutivillus holds the parchment on the Day of Judgement
Bust of a bearded man in a striped cap with a cape and trailing drapery
Winged beast with a long tail and human head
Bearded man wearing a cap
A former Master of St Katharine’s was Chancellor of the Exchequer
Angel playing the bagpipes
Pelican in her piety with three chicks, supported by a pair of swans
Lion leaping upon the amphisbaena, supported by reptilian monsters
Coiled serpentine monster
Woman riding a beast with a man’s head
Elephant and castle surmounted by a crowned head
Beast with a hooded human head
Choir stalls with misericords
St Katharine’s Chapel was built in 1951 on the site of St James, Ratcliffe, destroyed in the blitz
Late fifteenth or early sixteen century carving of angel musicians playing a psaltery, a harp and tabor
The Royal Foundation of St Katharine, 2 Butcher Row, Limehouse, E14 8DS
With thanks to the Master of the Royal Foundation of St Katharine for permission to photograph the misericords
If you are interested to visit St Katharine’s Chapel please write to email@example.com