CARVINGS of Aslan the Lion, Mr Tumnus, and the White Witch are among characters from C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia chosen for the restoration of a medieval church.
The limestone figures will be situated in the northern side of the clerestory at the Grade I listed St Mary’s, Beverley, in East Yorkshire, as part of a £10-million refurbishment.
The church, founded 900 years ago this year, was described as “one of the most beautiful parish churches of England” by the architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner.
The Vicar of St Mary’s, the Revd Becky Lumley, said: “We needed to replace the original carvings, which were so weathered we had no evidence of what was there. We wanted to create a scheme that connected to our contemporary culture and also had a focus of being missional, connecting with the Christian story.”
Art students at the East Riding College, Beverley, were asked to create their own designs inspired by the church’s numerous carvings of real and mythical animals, including a 14th-century carving of a rabbit said to be the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit. One of the students, Mel Watkins, made a drawing of Mr Tumnus the faun, which convinced the project team to commission 14 Narnia-themed carvings.
They were designed by the sculptor Kibby Schaefer, whose husband, Matthias Garn, is the church’s master mason. The carvings are due to be fixed to the clerestory this autumn.
Lewis, despite his popular agologetic writings, denied that Narnia novels were intended as a Christian allegory, but admitted that they reflected Christian themes and the incarnation of Christ.