GLOUCESTER CATHEDRAL BY SIMON BURNS-COX
I have just returned from Gloucester Cathedral which is one of the loveliest buildings in England. I have visited The Cathedral often as I was brought up in the area but every time I go, I discover new things.
You will find the tomb of Edward II who was brutally murdered in Berkeley Castle, near Thornbury, Gloucestershire in 1327. Later, however, he was given a state funeral and buried in The Cathedral. His tomb is made from Alabaster and Purbeck Marble and he lies in state holding a royal orb and sceptre.
The other tomb you will find in The Cathedral is that of Robert, Duke of Normandy, who was the eldest son of William The Conqueror. His youngest brother, King Henry 1, imprisoned him in Cardiff Castle in 1106. He died in captivity in 1134 and was later buried at Gloucester. His effigy is made from Irish bog oak which lies on top of a 15th century stone tomb.
Gloucester Cathedral is a magnificent building and began as a Benedictine monastery from 1089 to 1540. It was then refounded as a Cathedral by Henry VIII at the time of The Reformation. To my surprise, I discovered on this latest visit, that The Cathedral is full of ‘Green Men’. There are about 40 ‘Green Men’ or Foliate Heads. Many of them can be found high up in the roof or ‘bosses’ dating back to about 1430. In the South Porch, you will find some badly damaged faces. These are thought to be Victorian ‘Green Men’ while on the west front there are two which are from the twentieth century.
You will find all types of Green Men: some with foliage beards, flower faces or grimacing faces. There are others with four heads, a dragon head or a man with giant ears and a moustache. Some of these faces are grinning high up in the roof in the north aisle. They were made in 1430. A later Renaissance version of the 17th century can be found in the Seabroke Chapel. This one has a small grotesque face emerging from the foliage. If you go down to the Crypt, you will find a face of a man with a distinctive beard and moustache. This is thought to date back to The Normans in 1090. The beard is similar to that of the one that William The Conqueror had.
Lady Raglan was the first person to give these Green Men their name. She was studying the carvings at Llangwm Church near Usk in 1939. She noticed that the stone carvings looked similar to the image used on pub signs for ‘The Green Man’ so she decided to call the foliage heads in the church by the same name.