Leaves of Southwell

The fluid carvings of plants, animals and green men found within the Chapter House – known collectively as ‘The Leaves of Southwell’ – are of quite exceptional quality. Regarded as the best example of 13th century naturalistic carving in the United Kingdom, they are globally important, yet currently at risk.

It is seventy years since Sir Nicholas Pevsner wrote his classic King Penguin Monograph about the Leaves. It is rightly celebrated; but Pevsner limited his attention to only half the carvings and did not write about the artistic religious and mythological significance of the sculptures. We now know a great deal more about the Chapter House and its positioning near ancient well springs that supplied baptismal pools and believe this may have significant bearing on the interpretation and symbolism of the carvings.

 

A Prayer commending to God our exploration of the meaning and challenge of the Chapter House 'Leaves of Southwell'

Gracious God, source of life,
we praise you for the wonder and diversity of the natural world,
and we thank you for the genius of the craftsmen
who carved the Chapter House leaves that speak to us still.
Open our hearts and minds to your guiding Spirit,
that we may discern together
how best to cherish this good earth
and safeguard its resources.
As we listen to the leaves,
show us how to share in creation's song
and rediscover our harmony in you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

The Leaves of Southwell Project

National Lottery Heritage Fund Logo

The Chapter House and its Leaves need protection from leaking roofs and lack appropriate heating and environmental controls. In addition, with modern lighting (there is none at present) and an imaginative interpretation scheme, the Leaves of Southwell can be made much more accessible and widely known to future generations. It is our belief that they represent not only wonderful heritage but also an extraordinary resource today.

It is therefore with great joy that we can announce that we have been awarded a £1.9million National Lottery Heritage Fund grant to implement these works to deliver the project in a way that will protect, interpret and better present these beautiful and historic medieval carvings for future generations.

Hannah Turner performing “After the Dust” in the Chapter House