Stained-glass window, St Swithin’s Church, Swanbourne
A Holy Well is a natural spring of water issuing from the ground, of its own accord.
The water never runs dry even in the longest drought,
nor does it ever completely freeze over even in the longest, coldest winter.
The water of Holy Wells is always, originally,
crystal clear and contains minerals which give it healing properties…
… So, when we got to the church it all came back to me.
John Schorne, ‘conjured the devil into a boot’
and caused a spring of water, with healing properties,
to erupt from the earth – good for gout!
Well, really, these folklorists are nothing if not ingenious.
I remembered the mediaeval depiction of Schorne in the church too,
because I had been accosted by the exact same thought.
The boot and the devil in that depiction was reminiscent
of St John the Evangelist’s symbol of a dragon or snake in a chalice.
Coupled with the hand gesture of benediction and in one startling
instance even the body of the saint itself this was more than enough to start the ‘cogs-a-turning’.
I had assumed then that the church painting had ‘borrowed’ from those depictions,
and that was why we had not been able to proceed any further!
Putting the cart before the horse
to the tune of two hundred or so years is not conducive
to historical accuracy but it also has far deeper ramifications than mere notions of time.
For one thing, it means that renaissance symbolism must have been linked to a landscape tradition.
Which, in and of itself, is an explosive enough contention!
Before we delve into all that, though, we need to consider
in far greater detail the argument from art…