St Mary’s announcement in June of its fourteen new stone carvings based on characters from The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis caused a splash in the media, with coverage by BBC News and national papers.
Now local Narnia fans will have the opportunity to see these new, handmade carvings close up before they are raised into position high on the external walls of the church.
“There are existing carvings on the church walls that have been there for centuries,” says Roland Deller, Director of Development, “and we intend these new ones to last for generations too. So this really is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see these characters face to face before they go into their permanent position.”
The enchanting Narnia stories – of Aslan, the White Witch, talking beasts and magical lands – are ranked among the top children’s literature of all time.
The display has opened and will run until 10 September, with the carvings changed over every fortnight.
The church has timed the display to coincide with the school holidays and has created a trail sheet for young viewers.
“We will display the carvings in groups, changing them over every fortnight,” explains Roland. ‘Children can show that they’ve seen each carving by finding the codeword displayed near each one and can send the completed sheet to us to win a badge. All correct entries will also be entered into a prize draw to win a hardback box set of all 7 books in the Narnia series.’
Designed and handmade by craftsmen at Matthias Garn Master Mason & Partner near York, out of Magnesian Limestone from a quarry in Tadcaster, the new carvings are part of a major project to restore the church over ten years, which has begun thanks to a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £421,400. Locals will have seen the church enveloped in scaffolding recently, where a team of skilled stonemasons are saving one of the most vulnerable areas of the church.
“As we repair and restore the damaged stonework, we are also preserving and interpreting the church’s Curious Carvings,” says Roland.
“The focus of the project is mainly on the indoor carvings: on the church ceiling are more than 600 medieval and Tudor carvings, known as roof bosses, which include kings, saints, brewers, angels, lions, wrestlers, unicorns, mermaids and musicians. So we’re finding ways of introducing this remarkable heritage to more people.
“But some of the external stone carvings on this part of the building have eroded away completely, and so the idea was hatched to commission replacement carvings based on characters from The Chronicles of Narnia. The project has really captured the public’s imaginations, and we’ve been thrilled with the national response to our announcement. We know 2020 has been a tough year for many families, and we hope this special summer project will bring people a bit of joy.”
Further information on the project and the exhibition, and the activity sheet for the summer trail, can be found at stmarysbeverley.org/heritage/narnia.
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