The weird and wonderful

The weird and wonderful

Churches are full of strange and peculiar things. Explore some fascinating lectures and films...

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The weird and wonderful
  • Naughty Things In Parish Churches

    Gazing at the inside or outside of an historic church, your eyes are likely to encounter strange beasts, frolicking figures and twisted foliage staring back at you from doorways, windows, friezes, corbel tables, roof bosses and stained glass – although plenty are just hidden enough to fool the ey...

  • The Royal Tombs of England

    Explore the history of the internment of kings, queens regnant and lords protector in England – from the Sutton Hoo ship burial in the 7th century down to the burial of the former Edward VIII at Windsor in 1972. This will take us not only to the great royal chapels at Westminster and Windsor, but...

  • Curiosities In Churches & Churchyards: Their Bizarre Legends & Weird Folklore

    This talk will be a tour of some of the truly bizarre objects found in Britain's churches and churchyards, ranging from pyramid tombs to devils' stones, from the skulls of saints said to have cupped the waters of holy wells to golden orbs set on steeples by occultist aristocrats. Our journey will...

  • Faith And Fury: The Last Witches of England

    On the morning of Thursday 29 June 1682, a magpie came tapping at the window of a prosperous Devon merchant. Within hours, his household had convinced itself that the bird was an emissary of the devil sent by witches to destroy their lives. As the result of these allegations, three old beggar wom...

  • The Black Death of 1348 in London

    In late 1348, the Black Death entered London. Over the next 9 months, it ravaged the populace killing thousands. This paper provides a detailed look at its arrival, spread and eventual disappearance, and looks at some of the archaeological and architectural evidence for its passage, its final dea...

  • Macabre Church Lore

    England's churches and churchyards have long been the focus of unsettling popular beliefs, from the monstrous black dog known as the Churchyard Grim to spectral appearances and the sinister machinations of witches, while even churches themselves sometimes housed sinister objects, such as a magica...

  • Contextualising Carved Cadavers Memorials in England

    This talk explores the carved cadaver memorials in England. It places them in their theological and vernacular religious context, as well as providing a little information on where they sit in relation to images of the dead in medieval culture, and their connection to the body. It also touches on...

  • Gargoyles And Grotesques: Why Are There Monsters On Medieval Churches?

    Gargoyles and grotesques are an immediate and appealing feature of many historic churches and cathedrals. Often carved into fantastic monsters and imaginative, bold, sometimes obscene figures, they have largely been dismissed as whimsical and indeed, incongruous with their setting, at best someth...

  • Protection Marks In Churches and Other Buildings

    In old buildings many subtly carved marks can be found on stone, plaster and timber with a variety of meanings and purposes. There are masons’ marks, carpenter’s marks, merchants marks, shipping marks, historic graffiti (covers a wide range) and then there are protection marks.

    In this short pre...

  • A Medieval Guide To Escaping Purgatory

    The medieval concept of Purgatory as the Third Place led to a number of ways that medieval men and women attempted to mitigate its expected horrors. This lecture will consider how they were able to do this, in life and after their own deaths. Many physical remains of this belief survive, but are ...

  • Concealed Objects in Churches: Dead Cats, Witch Bottles & Shoes...

    In this lecture Brian Hoggard will discuss the practice of concealing objects in buildings, something which was used to ward off evil influences. These practices are well known in secular buildings but it isn’t so widely known that it also occurred in churches. Objects like concealed shoes, dried...

  • Traditions of Death and Burial

    Death has been a source of grief and uncertainty for humanity throughout history, but it has also been the inspiration for a plethora of fascinating customs and much human creativity. This talk with Dr Helen Frisby, author of the Shire book Traditions of Death and Burial, explores English death a...

  • Begone Satan: A History of the English Exorcism

    The rite of exorcism, a formal casting out of Satan and his demons, was once part of everyday life in the English parish - not only in the liturgy of baptism, but also in formulas used for the exorcism of pests from crops, and even as a cure for toothache. More dramatic exorcisms sometimes took p...

  • Santo Prepuzio! How the Foreskin of Jesus was found, revered, and disappeared...

    In December 1983, a priest in the Italian hill town of Calcata shared shocking news with his congregation: The pride of their town, the foreskin of Jesus, had been stolen. Some postulated that it had been stolen by Satanists. Some said the priest himself was to blame. Some even pointed their fing...

  • What Remains?: The Gory and Gruesome History of the Medieval Cult of Relics

    In medieval Europe, relics of dead martyrs were the ultimate must-have, venerated by princes and paupers alike. And the associated market for them was big business; a huge industry with an infrastructure to match. Crumbling bone, ravaged human hair, withering chunks of flesh, and the blood-soaked...

  • British Churches: Creepy Artefacts and Spooky Tales

    This talk will investigates some of the spooky artefacts found in, and ghostly tales centred around, Britain's churches. From the ranks of macabre funeral effigies lurking in Westminster Abbey to the flaming black hellhounds of Suffolk, from human hearts hidden in pillars to sightings of ghostly ...

  • Death and the Maiden: exploring erotic death art, and the gender of death

    ​​In this talk given by Dr Christina Welch, we will explore the 'erotic' proto- and Reformation-era 'Death and the Maiden' artworks produced by the artists known as the Little Masters. It will set these in their historical context and consider how they relate to the perceived gender of Death as m...

  • Raiders of the Grave

    Between 1742 and 1832, men of the lowest form of character targeted Britain’s churchyards for perhaps one of the most macabre practices you’ll ever come across.

    Resurrection men or body snatchers, plagued our churchyards and stole our dead all in the name of science. Providing a fresh and steady...