When I was a kid, I imagined the medieval period to be little bustling quaint villages nestled in picturesque rolling hills. I'd imagine the market square with people coming far and wide, the little houses lined along the main road and a magnificent stone church visible in the background. It seems that my 8 year old self was not so far off base with my medieval fantasies. Castle Combe, located in the Cotswolds is the dream village we all hoped existed.
The Cotswolds is a rural area of south central England covering parts of 6 counties, notably Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. Its rolling hills and grassland harbor thatched medieval villages, churches and stately homes built of distinctive local yellow limestone. (Source: http://www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk/)
Castle Combe is the perfect village that is neatly tucked into the rolling hills. It's name originates from a 12th century castle that was located close by. Modern towns and villages tend to maintain a part of their history but allow architecture and city planning to evolve. Castle Combe looks like it did centuries ago with very few alterations. It’s easily accessible being just a couple hours drive from London. The countryside along the way is worth the trip along with the tasty home cooked food available at the little pub in the center.
At every place I visit, I am drawn to the local churchs and/or cathedral. I am not personally religious but find the spiritual power of the buildings to be alluring. I am also mystified by the grandeur that is dedicated to a place of worship. Whether I agree with the particular represented religion or not I can not help but admire the architectural beauty and attention to minute detail. Also the centuries of history encased in the walls sends shivers down my spine. Who knows how had passed by or stopped in and why.
St. Andrew’s in Castle Combe was founded in the 13th century but has been modified and extended over the centuries. Most of what is visible today is attributed to the 15th century. One of the highlights of this church is the medieval effigy of the Baron of Castle Combe, Sir Walter de Dunstanville. It’s remarkable the amount of detail throughout Walter’s sculpted figure. Something I am grateful for is the ability to get so close to such objects. There is nothing preventing you from getting 1cm away or even touching it. Now that doesn’t mean I automatically touch every that isn’t supervised but I do appreciate the possibility of looking at intricate details so closely. Also seeing things like this effigy in situ allows me to put myself in the place of a late 13th century visitor who would have experienced this the same way I am today.
Walter is shown in his full battle gear with chain mail, sword and shield included. It is said that the positioning of his feet and crossed as such indicates he participated in two Crusades. Though the images may not successfully illustrate the size, this effigy is practically to scale.
My recent relocation to England has ignited a new found interest in the magnificent countryside, English medieval history and 16th century history. Though the Middle Ages holds my heart I cannot help but be fascinated by these other time periods that are intertwined so clearly.
Here’s a picture of my favorite pastime: finding tiny doors