Over a doorway on one of the City of London’s many Wren churches is something really quite special. A large but intricate carving depicts the Last Day – the figure of Christ presides over the dead, who are rising up from their coffins in preparation for the final judgement. This spectacular carving has not always been at St Andrew. It was at one time situated over the entrance to another burial ground close to the church, the paupers’ cemetery at Shoe Lane, which was located by the parish poor house.
The carving itself looks as though it’s recently had something of a spring clean – there was no soot or grime obscuring the details of the carved figures. The scene is carved into two separate stones, and the lower stone filled with images of the dead rising again on the last day. Coffins, some containing skeletons, are depicted amid the chaotic jumble of human limbs. Some of the figures seem to be begging for mercy. Another figure clings desperately to an angel. The angel is one of the few clothed figures in the scene – the folds of its robe are still clearly visible. Above the mass of figures, Christ stands surrounded by clouds and winged figures, his arms outstretched and his expression serene. Beneath Christ’s feet is a defeated, dragon-like beast with a long tail, symbolising the triumph of good over evil.
The carving is thought to date from the 17th Century (although Edmund Burke claimed it was from “before the reformation”). The little winged cherubs or putti (winged babies, often symbolising the omnipresence of God) surrounding the figure of Christ seem to be the giveaway in terms of the date of the carving- cherubs and putti were a common feature in a lot of 17th and 18th Century art.
65 photos taken in September 2019 with a Sony a6000 and processed in Agisoft Metashape.