The function and development of the Foliate Head in English medieval churches

Corrigan, Imogen Jane Barbara Antonia (2020). The function and development of the Foliate Head in English medieval churches. University of Birmingham. M.Litt.

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This is an investigation into how the image originated, developed and how it functioned. It seeks to find an interpretation of an image which is present in churches across Europe and which is known as the foliate head, but latterly as the Green Man. It is generally a carving of a disembodied head which either issues foliage from its mouth, nose, ears and/or eyes or which appears to be transforming into it. The so-called Green Man image has caused debate and widely varying interpretation since the name was coined in 1939. This only applies in Britain an effect of which was to bring the carving to the attention of folklorists, which in turn brought particular readings, some based on instinct and emotion.

The image is found in pre-Christian times in several countries, but it is believed that its frequent appearance in churches indicates a Christian interpretation. They are not thought to be rogue pagan images somehow smuggled into Christian buildings. A detailed analysis has been made of its varying appearance, location, types of foliage and accompanying images in an attempt to resolve its function. Having done this, it is believed that the foliate head image should be read in a positive way, probably connected to personal resurrection after death.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.Litt.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.Litt.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: Department of English Literature, School of English, Drama and American and Canadian Studies
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NB Sculpture


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