Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Bishop John de Sheppey of Rochester


(from a photograph by J. L. Allen Courtesy: Project Gutenburg ).

"The effigy itself has been much praised, and deservedly. The sculpture, in stone, is excellent, and the colours have a fine effect. It is surprising to see how general is the belief that this is “probably the most perfect specimen of ancient colouring now existing in England,” and how even great authorities refer to “its very perfect original colouring;” for in the “Gentleman’s Magazine” (September, 1825) we can read how the monument was treated just after its discovery. A Mr. Harris, in Mr. Cottingham’s employ, made two drawings of the effigy, one showing it as it was, the other as the architect thought it had been. The restoration of the colours, according to the second drawing, was then resolved on and carried out, and, as a result, “the dalmatic, instead of being a pink, is now a dull scarlet, with a green lining, and the shoes are painted yellow.” Matters are still worse when we see Mr. Harris complaining (in a letter now at the British Museum) that the renovation according to his drawing was done “by an unskilful hand, consequently the remains of the beautiful colouring were destroyed, which was much regretted by the dean, Dr. Stevens, at the time.” The sculpture seems fortunately not to have been tampered with; some fragments luckily discovered were fitted in their places, but no further restoration was attempted. These fragments were the top of the mitre, most of the fingers, the feet, and the head of one of the little dogs lying thereby.

The bishop’s face, naturally coloured like the rest of the effigy, is rather mutilated, but seems to have been close shaven. Under his outermost robe, the chasuble, comes the dalmatic, through the side openings of which the rich green of the tunic appears. The colour of the latter robe used, however, to be scarcely visible. The ends of the stole do not appear, but, under all, the alb hangs down to the feet. The apparel of the alb, the amice round his neck, and the maniple of his left arm are shown as richly embroidered with gold. The bishop wears jewelled gloves, and on the fourth finger of his left hand the episcopal ring, of gold set with a ruby. His head, with the precious mitre, rests on two cushions, and finally against his left shoulder lies the splendid crosier, of which, unfortunately, the crook is gone.

On the side towards the choir, of the slab on which he rests, we read “hic iacet dns iohans de schepeie epus huius ecclie.” The same words appear on the other side, except that istius takes the place of huius, a change which implies some independence in the chapel.

The railing before the tomb perhaps belonged to it originally. Along the upper band should be noticed the curious pounced pattern, and its three massive lily spikes cannot but attract attention. It was the occurrence of the letters i s, the bishop’s initials, just under the central spike, that led to the railing being brought hither from another part of the church".

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