Kyrle Probus Club
   of Ross-on-Wye


Romanesque Art and Architecture - by Bob Chance

August 18th Talk

KILPECK Church, ‘a gem of Romanesque Art,’ and the Herefordshire School of Masons, featured in an illustrated talk on Romanesque Art and Architecture presented by Bob Chance at a recent meeting of Kyrle Probus Club.

Mr Chance, head of design and technology at a Hereford school, explained that the influence of Romanesque art and architecture arrived in Britain with William the Conqueror. Features of what became known as Norman architecture, were the decorated semi-circular arch, often displayed in arcades of arches, while the Roman influence saw the basilica design in churches with an apse at one end, usually the East end.

The Cathedral of St James at Santiago de Compostella, in northern Spain, built in the 11th century, became the focus of pilgrimages from all parts of the Continent and resulted in a massive building development of churches and art carved in stone, as churches were built on the routes to Santiago, for the benefit of the pilgrims.

Identical ideas of design and decoration moved across to England and can be seen in Hereford Cathedral, Mr Chance said. Kilpeck Church, founded around 1140, was a simple little church in plan, with a nave, chancel and apse as in the basilica design. He explained that at the time, Kilpeck was a small town and the local landowner, Hugh of Kilpeck, wanted a church built.

The church at Shobdon in Herefordshire had just been built, following a pilgrimage to Santiago by the steward of the Shobdon Estate. It was much admired by Hugh, who said he wanted his church built by the masons employed at Shobdon. These masons also built Leominster Priory and other churches and so the Herefordshire School of Masons came into being.

Some of the finest Romanesque sculpture one could wish to see can be found at Kilpeck Church, with the south doorway featuring some particularly fine carvings and a tympanum showing the Tree of Life. There are some 65 corbels still remaining, of the 80-plus originally erected round the entire roofline of the church. These depict

The south doorway at Kilpeck Church, showing the influence of Romanesque art and architecture
 mythical monsters, different kinds of animals and also human heads, all beautifully carved in 3-D images.

Other features of the church are the warrior figures on either side of the chancel arch and the stone rib vaulting in the apse, which was quite sophisticated for its time.

Apart from Leominster Priory and the churches at KIlpeck and at Shobdon, where the remains of the original church stand on a grassy hill overlooking the present church, the churches at Rowlestone and Fownhope, with its highly elaborate tympanum, were also worth a visit, said Mr Chance.

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