God’s Flowers – the mystery of foliage decoration in medieval churches decoded

God’s Flowers by Mike Tisdall, is a new book which unravels the mystery of the flowers and foliage decoration of medieval churches and their symbolism.

The cover of God's Flowers

The cover of God’s Flowers

Lavishly illustrated, it presents alphabetically the most commonly encountered flowers and foliage in Northern European medieval carving, dating largely from the period 1100 to 1550. It also explains the likely ‘spiritual’ reasons for the inclusion of a particular plant in church carving. Illustrations drawn from geographically diverse sites, clearly show that there is a common thrust for the iconography of foliage ideas across much of Northern Europe.

The book covers flowers such as the Daisy, Marigold and Rose, trees such as the Cherry, Fig and Holly and also broader concepts such as the Green Man, the Tree of Life and Magic.

Author Mike Tisdall has very generously agreed to make God’s Flowers, a privately printed 182 page book, available for a £30 donation to the National Churches Trust. All proceeds will go towards the work of the National Churches Trust, which funds repairs to churches and supports their continuing use for worship and the wider community. To obtain a copy of the book please visit the God’s Flowers JustGiving page.

The Mallow plant as foliage decoration

The Mallow plant as foliage decoration

Author Mike Tisdall said: “‘Oh it’s so beautiful’. Is that all we can say about the decoration in our churches and cathedrals? Sadly, very often the answer is “yes”. We have neither the knowledge nor expertise to take the discussion further. However, there is much more to say about all aspects of the decoration of our churches. It is the argument of this book that the ‘just foliage’ description is a serious misreading of the foliate carving in our churches.”

God’s Flowers explores the flowers and foliage decoration of medieval churches and that symbolism. It challenges the idea that such foliage is merely decoration, where only the skill of the caver and the beauty of the result are worthy of consideration. It illustrates clearly how the subjects were chosen with a rationale in mind and lays the foundation upon which to build a deeper understanding of these undoubtedly beautiful carvings.”

Michael Tisdall  has a life-long passion for medieval church decoration.  God’s Flowers is testament to his passion; his previous book God’s Beasts: Identify and Understand Animals in Church Carvings (now out of print) also looked at common themes in medieval church carvings.

We’d like to hear from you if you have photos or information about flowers and foliage decoration in your church.

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