Southwell Minster carvings get £1.9m lottery cash boost

Image copyright Richard Jarvis
Image caption Church bosses said the carvings had inspired countless artists and writers

A cathedral has been awarded nearly £2m to help it preserve its rare 13th Century carvings.

Southwell Minster, in Nottinghamshire, bid for Heritage Lottery Fund cash due to concerns a leaky roof could harm the nature-related stone art.

The carvings, known as The Leaves of Southwell, are considered among Europe's finest from that period.

A £1.9m grant will pay for structural repairs and enhancements to the visitor experience.

Southwell Minster Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Southwell Minster was built more than 900 years ago

The Leaves, found inside the cathedral's chapter house, depict plants, animals and green men - faces surrounded by or made from leaves.

It is believed that about five carvers were responsible for creating the ornate architecture.

Church bosses said the lottery cash would allow them to carry out structural improvements to help preserve the Leaves and attract visitors by adding lighting, installing under-floor heating and improved disabled access.

The Leaves of Southwell Image copyright Richard Jarvis

The Canon Chancellor, Nigel Coates, who has led the project, said: "The Leaves of Southwell are hugely significant as part of our artistic heritage but also have so much to teach us about the need to treasure the natural world.

"The project will ensure future generations continue to be inspired."

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Why are The Leaves special?

Entrance to chapter house Image copyright Richard Jarvis

Dr Alison Milbank, from the University of Nottingham's Department of Theology, is also a canon at Southwell Minster.

She said: "The leaf carvings in the chapter house at Southwell are a very fine example of the realistic style of representing actual species of leaves, which appeared in the 13th Century and then stopped, to be overtaken by more stylised, less naturalistic styles of carving.

"Unusually, throughout the whole cathedral leaf carving predominates. It's as if the Minster were celebrating its freedom from the kingly rule of Sherwood forest, which it achieved in 1225, with a profusion of woodland trees and flowers.

"In his book on English cathedrals, Simon Jenkins calls it 'a burst of genius'."

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