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Narnia Carved In Stone

CS Lewis’s much-loved The Chronicles of Narnia are going to be immortalised on the walls of a 900-year-old parish church in Yorkshire. Lewis is inextricably linked with Belfast and Ulster but St Mary’s Church in Beverley has commissioned a series of stone carvings of fourteen characters from his books. “The precedent of animal and character carvings in churches stretches right back to medieval times,” explains St Mary’s heritage learning officer, Dr Jennie England, “Amongst our roof bosses we already have countless wooden carvings of animals, real and mythical, and the misericord carvings under the seats in the chancel feature an elephant and a pelican.” The church has other literary associations as it also features a carving of a ‘pilgrim hare’, thought to date from 1330 and to have been the inspiration for the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The original carvings in the spaces on the outside walls of  St Mary’s have weathered away completely and as, there is no pictorial evidence to show what was there, there is no way of reconstructing the original images. Imaginatively, the church authorities decided to commission artist Kibby Schaefer to carve something new, to reflect more modern times. As well as Mr Tumnus the faun, the other characters featured in the new carvings will include the White Witch, Reepicheep the mouse, Fledge the winged horse, Glenstorm the centaur, and, of course, Aslan the lion. It should be remembered that Lewis was a deeply Christian writer and his apologetics remain essential reading, particularly on the problem of pain. His memorial at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey features the quote: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.”

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