The Battel Hall Retable
I had the pleasure of meeting up with two of my longest standing friends at Leeds Castle on Sunday. It all happened rather quickly and at the last minute, but sometimes these spontaneous trips turn out to be some of the best. As you might imagine the venue provided the backdrop to our day really as we were busy catching up [we only manage a couple of times a year at best], so I was only snapping pictures here and there as we wandered past. The original intention was to just post up a few of these in a post. As I scanned through I wondered what a "retable" was and a much more interesting story emerged....
This new-to-me word I find means "altar piece" and this rather magnificent example shows 7 saints, 6 of whom are women. Poor old St Agatha has got a sword piercing her breasts and we know that the story of St Catherine and her wheel was never going to end well https://gnatbottomedtowers.blogspot.com/search?q=catherine+wheel
Following restoration work carried out in 2014 it was discovered that this English piece dates from 1410 and is an incredibly rare survival. There are only five in total and all bar this and one other have remained in their original form of painted horizontal oak planks held within a frame [also the original]. Others were converted into tables etc. There is no doubt it has suffered over time and at some point the saints faces were deliberately scratched out. Amongst many clusters of graffiti there were deliberate apotropaic marks overlaid on the disfigured heads. There is no mention of any of this on the information boards provided with it and it is completely accidental that I managed to capture some of these marks. Had I known I would have tried to take a better picture! Oh how I would love to go back in time and ask those who left the marks there what was their intention behind it all!
For anyone interested in finding out a little more this article might be of interest https://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/beheading-of-saints-just-the-start-of-medieval-altarpiece-s-tribulations
Until next time!
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