Few people will not have been exposed to C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia in their childhood, and now visitors to St. Mary’s Church, a 12th-century parish in Beverley, Yorkshire will swoon be welcomed by a cast of characters from the series of books.
The Guardian reports that 14 limestone sculptures depicting Aslan the lion, Jadis the White Witch, Reepicheep the talking mouse and many other creatures will be replacing the worn medieval carvings that adorned the church’s exterior. The Bishop of Hull, Alison White, blessed the newly commissioned sculptures in a recent ceremony.
The installation of the statues is part of the first phase in the restoration of the historic building, partly funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The project is mainly focussed on over 600 medieval wooden carvings of historical, religious, and mythical figures, known as roof bosses, which are in dire need of conservation, but in better shape than the external stone carvings, which have weathered away almost entirely.
Roland Deller, director of development at St. Mary’s, explained that there was no visual record of what the original carvings should have looked like, so it was decided to commission something new that reflected more recent times.
Ideas were submitted by local art and design students, and one sketch of Mr Tumnus the faun who befriends Lucy, the youngest Pevensie sibling, when she first arrives in Narnia, inspired the restoration team to commission a whole series of Narnia carvings by sculptor Kibby Schaefer and master mason Matthias Garn.
C.S. Lewis published seven volumes between 1950 and 1956 of the adventures in Narnia of four young siblings who are evacuated to the English countryside during World War II, finding themselves pitted in a fight between good and evil.
Lewis became a devout Christian after years of atheism following his mother’s death and his own service in World War I. Many have argued that the Chronicles of Narnia are a Christian allegory, with the lion king Aslan, who is killed by the White Witch but later returns from the dead, cast as a fictional representation of Jesus.
The stone sculptures—made with the permission of Lewis’ estate—will be displayed at ground level to enable visitors to see them up close before moving to more permanent positions on the church’s exterior.
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