Big Bird in a small (monk)Fish Pond

I’ve recently been reading and re-reading around one of my favourite themes, the dissolution of the monasteries. I actually really like monasteries, especially those that have gift shops where you can purchase things made with beeswax, and useful leatherette goods –

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But, in spite of the sadness at the loss it was, especially to communities that relied on the medical services and charity some monasteries provided, and how they were the gatekeepers and producers of libraries, a lot of fascinating stories came out of that rough time. It gave C. J. Sansom great subject matter for a great murder mystery, full of cold stone, snow, and uncomfortable living.

I also stumbled across the tale of the lectern at Southwell Minster, which is a relic from Newstead Abbey (which was actually a priory, but never mind). It had been thrown into the fish pond by the monks before Henry VIII’s blokes with carts and idol-smashing hammers turned up. I can imagine them, in the pre-dawn of a (possibly) frosty morn, wrapping it in sacking, and deeply submerging it into the algae and mud, where it stayed hidden until it was dredged up over 200 years later. The globe held between the eagle’s claws contained abbey documents such as deeds, secreted there before his long dip, and were found still dry and secure when it was taken apart to be cleaned and repaired centuries later.

I read all this, and immediately googled to see a picture of this miraculous lectern that had survived such a tumultuous period below the weeds, guarded by gold fish and frogs, and, well, it’s an amazing piece of work and all, but is it just me or does it have a touch of the Jim Hensons?

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Or course, it’s still beautiful and awesome, and I’m glad it has such a grand, appropriate home, especially after so many years as a really posh version of one of those little castles at the bottom of fish tanks. And actually, being compared to anything Henson-like is actually a compliment.

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