A Country Chapel and the Daughter of a Pagan Priest

I didn’t known the story of Margaret of Antioch until I came across her wall painting in the 12th Century ‘Hailes Church’ in Gloucestershire. Margaret of Antioch was the daughter of a Pagan Priest who converted to Christianity and became a Shepherdess. When she refused the advances of a Roman Governor he threw her in prison, where she was then attacked by Satan in the form of a dragon. He swallowed her, but she escaped his stomach by splitting him open with a cross. She then became the patron Saint of Childbirth.

I couldn’t help but think when I read that myth that she might have fared better if she had remained a good nature abiding Pagan. St Catherine of Alexandria is on the other wall, another Pagan battling Saint who refuses the advances of an Emperor and ends up beheaded. All in all, in the 12th Century this was a Church heavy in female propaganda. Abandon your Pagan ways and when men attack you, god might step in, but he might not, and you will probably end up dying or having to do something pretty awful, but at least you get to go to heaven etc They just don’t seem to my 21st Century sentiments very convincing conversion tales.

I am always amazed at the amount of Pagan references in old churches. If you visit Tewkesbury Abbey it has many carvings of the Green Man, and no matter what the exact origin of the Green Man, he usually always represents peoples communion with nature. While the hands of these men were building monuments to Christianity, maybe their hearts were still weaving the magic of the natural world into there fabric. With many conversion mythologies particularly for the women in Hailes Church based on fear, I can’t really blame them.

There are also some very pretty early floor tiles……..



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