“Those bright ones? They ferry you over to the Feast.”
George Mackay Brown, Tryst on Egilsay
At first glance, the medieval church of St Clement at Rodel seems to be empty… apart from the art installation that fills the old stone interior with movement and colour. Seven Waves is a work by Erlend Brown and Dave Jackson, inspired by Orcadian poet, George Mackay Brown. The waves and poem together tell a story nine centuries old, of the betrayal and murder of Earl Magnus Erlendsson… but the church, a little younger than the tale the poet recounts, has its own stories to tell.
Even the walls speak, with the sparkling, dark stone of the arches into the side chapels contrasting with the sturdy masonry of the body of the church. Built to withstand gales from the sea, the thick walls have withstood storm and fire for five hundred years.
In the deep window embrasure opposite the doorway that leads into the nave, there is a medieval cross, carved from local stone. On one face is a depiction of the Crucifixion, while the other shows the kind of interlacing usually called ‘Celtic’. Near the base of the cross, the interlacing terminates in what looks rather like a shamrock, a symbol long associated with Ireland. I wondered if it was alluding to the Irish saint, Columba, whose path we have crossed so many times before, and who had brought Christianity to the Isles in the sixth century, or whether it symbolised the Trinity.
In a corner near the door, there are a few fragments of masonry, probably rescued from previous restorations. These are a common sight at medieval churches and we have found some wonderful things amongst old and overlooked piles of stone that have been tucked in odd corners.
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