• Angel Veneration on Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture from Dewsbury (West Yorkshire), Otley (West Yorkshire) and Halton (Lancashire): Contemplative Preachers and Pastoral Care

      Pickles, Thomas; University of Chester (British Archaeological Association/ Routledge/ Taylor and Francis, 2009)
      Three fragments of stone sculpture — from Dewsbury and Otley in West Yorkshire, and Halton in Lancashire — preserve images of an angel and attendant figure, perhaps a monk or mass-priest. All three fragments apparently belonged to monuments including further figural images with clear pastoral resonance: narrative images of the life and ministry of Christ, or images of the evangelists or apostles. While an absolute date cannot be supplied for the production of these monuments, the Otley monument seems to belong to the period 780–800, and the Dewsbury and Halton monuments seem to belong to the early 9th century. Previous discussions of these angel images have not provided a convincing identification. Here it is proposed that the sculptors were adapting contemporary models depicting an angel and attendant figure in order to draw attention to the connections between Old and New Testament narratives of angel veneration. It is argued that these images reflect and promote the angelology of Gregory the Great, who considered angels ideal exemplars for the contemplative preacher. If so, then the monuments may have been produced in response to two broader historical trends. First, the instability of kingship in Northumbria, which prompted Alcuin to promote the Roman and Christian authority of the Church and to propose ecclesiastical reform. Second, a gradual shift from mixed communities including monks, towards communities composed exclusively of priests, which may have required a defence of the role of contemplatives in society. Finally, it is suggested that these images therefore have an important implication for debates about the pastoral organisation of the early Anglo-Saxon Church.