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The West Portal in the Porch at Higham Ferrers: A Problem of Interpretation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 April 2011


The thirteenth-century west portal of Higham Ferrers Church, Northamptonshire, despite its rural setting, has claims to represent international and metropolitan taste in its ornament and general layout. The sculptured portal was originally part of a larger decorative and iconographic scheme, the coherence of which was drastically impaired in the rebuilding of the west porch, tower, and spire in the 1630s. Fragments of what seem likely to have been major sculptural groups were then built into the westface of the tower. Thefigurescenes, framed in medallions, which fill the left and rightportion of the tympanum of the portal are among the best preserved thirteenth-century sculptures in England, but the identification of the individual scenes is fraught with difficulty nor is it easy to judge the level at which the sculptures were intended to communicate. Contemporary illustrated Psalters, designed for personal devotional use, may provide the key, but curious symptoms of seventeenth-century interference also require interpretation.

Research Article
Copyright © The Society of Antiquaries of London 1988

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