“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The Templecombe Head

The Church of St Mary in the village of Templecombe, in Somerset is home to an unusual painted wooden panel which depicts a disembodied head. The painting was discovered in the outhouse of a local building by a resident of Templecombe in 1945. The roof of the outhouse had started to collapse and the panel was found hidden behind the plaster of the roof, with the face looking down upon the surprised home-owner.

The panel was gifted to the Church of St Mary in 1956, and is not as brightly coloured as it was when it was found back in 1945. It seems that during the intervening 11 years the panel may have been partially damaged by some over eager cleaning by a previous custodian, leading to the rather faint image that is seen today.

The panel has been dated to the 13th century and has been linked to the presence of the Knights Templar in Templecombe. In 1185 the Knights Templar established a preceptory (a headquarters) in the village, which served as the administrative base for their land holdings in the south west of the country. The Knights Templar's presence in the area would have lasted until the early 1300's when they were forced to disband as an organisation.

So who does the Templecombe Head depict? The most common theory is that the Templecombe Head depicts Jesus Christ, but Christ without his halo. It seems that in the 13th century it was normal for religious iconography to show Christ with a halo, however the Knights Templar were apparently known to depict Christ without a halo. So it could well be a Knights Templar image of Christ.

Other theories suggest that the head may be that of John the Baptist. Andrew May in his Forteana Blog points out that the Templecombe Head has drooping eyelids and a gaping mouth which may indicate that the image is of a decapitated head. Perhaps even the decapitated head of John the Baptist, who according to the Gospel of Mark was beheaded on the orders of King Herod. King Herod apparently gave John's head to his daughter as a gift.

But as with all mysteries, ultimately no-one truly knows who the Templecombe Head depicts. Or whether the Templecombe Head was originally in the possession of the Knights Templar, and if it was perhaps used as an icon for worship.

The Church of St Mary, Templecombe, Somerset.

The Templecombe Head - Jesus Christ? John the Baptist? Or someone else?

Inside the church.

Pictures: Somerset (March 2016).

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