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Demons

Some people are surprised to discover that images of demons appear regularly amongst medieval church graffiti. They shouldn’t be. The medieval church was a place full of imagery, and demons formed a fundamental part of that landscape. They are to be found in the wall paintings, the stained glass, and the beautifully carved woodwork - and it is no surprise that they found themselves amongst the graffiti as well.


In the medieval imagination demons were very real entities - far more so in many respects than angels. Demons were held responsible for the unexpected catastrophes of life - the sudden death, agricultural misfortune or un-looked for illness. They were the very real bringers of dark and malevolent times, and as such needed protecting against. Demons on the church walls are often accompanied by other symbols; symbols to ward off evil, and specifically symbols to keep the demons themselves in check.


This perhaps tells us a good deal about many of the types on graffiti found upon the walls of our churches. They only rarely show images of what people aspired to. Rather they show what people feared. The demon of Beachamwell carries with him a flesh-hook - a devise for removing the flesh from the bones of boiled meat. It is an image that speaks of the fires of torment and hell - and one that is repeated in stained glass, manuscripts and wall paintings. Such images tell us of the teachings of the medieval world, and the fears of the world yet to come…