Illustrated Dictionary of British Churches - Green Man Definition

History and Architecture

Green Man

The Green Man is a fascinating pre-Chritian relic, a pagan fertility symbol that survived well into the medieval period. The Green Man is often portrayed as a face, half hidden by foliage, with vines emerging from his mouth. The Green Man is often found as a decorative element on fonts, column capitals, misericords, and on roof bosses. If there can be said to be a female counterpart to the Green Man, it would be the sheela-na-gig, a carved or painted female figure, usually shown exposing her genitals. These figures are often seen on column capitals, friezes, or pilaster strips.

There are regional variations of the Green Man. Among the most intriguing is the woodwose, seen mostly in Suffolk and Norfolk. The woodwose is portrayed as a wildman of the woods, carrying a club, and clad in foliage. Where the Green Man is usually only shown as a face, the woodwose is depicted as a whole, standing figure. For more, see our short article on Suffolk woodwoses.

Among the best Green Man figures I have seen on my travels are those at Widecombe-in-the-Moor (roof boss), Garway, Herefordshire (capital carving), St David's Cathedral, Pembrokeshire (misericord), and All Saints church in Oakham, Rutland (carved capital). One of the most unusual Green Men is a stained glass likeness in the east window of the church at Pennal, Gwynedd. This is thought to be the only depiction of a Green Man in stained glass in all of Britain.

Related: Misericord   Boss   Capital  

Attraction search
in



National Trust

National Trust membership

National Trust membership

Free entry to National Trust properties throughout England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, plus discounted admission to National Trust for Scotand properties.

Membership details

About the National Trust


HISTORY CORNER
Name the mystery historic attraction
See larger image



This Protestant martyr was burned at the stake at Smithfield in 1546



21 May, 1471

Henry VI killed at Tower of London

Henry's murder neatly coincided with the triumphant arrival in London of Edward of York (soon to become Edward IV)

This queen was immortalized by Edmund Spenser in his 'Faerie Queene'



Passionate about British Heritage!