Favourite Photo 2016 and Medieval Political Correctness

I suppose its that time of the year when we all look back a little as well as forwards to review the “best bits” of the previous year. So, best overall holiday was in Burgundy, best city visited was Budapest, best winemaker visited, best book read, etc etc. A lot of our year has been spent travelling around Europe and getting to grips with a new camera as snaps were taken of every street, building, restaurant, food, wine, museum, painting …… we came across. Instagram became our Facebook and we built up to 400 Followers but then culled back to 150 who engaged with us about photography rather than selfies!

So this has led us to choose The Best Photo 2016 out of the thousands and thousands we have taken. Not such a difficult task as you might think, because we are not photography geeks living in a world of fstops, shutter speeds, iso thingys, the golden hour, backlit-frontlit, and on and on and on! No, we like to think about our perception of the photo, what it means to us, what memories it conjures up for us, how it makes us feel.

Based on this perception approach worthy runners up were a photo of the Roman aqueduct at Segovia which we had seen on TV a couple of months earlier, the Prado Museum at the time of the El Bosco exhibition, the Hungarian parliament building in Budapest, and the view of Volnay across the vineyards of the Cote d’Or.

So the winner is …….

Norman Font, St Peter's Church, Southrop, Gloucestershire, UK
Norman Font, St Peter’s Church, Southrop, Gloucestershire, UK

This is chosen because it opened our eyes to thinking more “local” a few months back. We visited local churches which are a treasure trove of history and architecture, we visited local museums from the Roman to Steam Trains, and also prehistoric sites like White Horse Hill, Avebury and more.

It was during our churches project that we visited the church of St Peter in Southrop just a couple of miles outside our own village of Lechlade. The church dates from the 12th Century and is not so splendid architecturally from the outside. But on entering we discovered the Norman font with a beautiful series of carvings of quite some significance. This font is one of the rarest in the UK and possibly dates from pre-Norman times. It was “lost” until found built into the south doorway by Reverend John Keble of the Oxford Movement and Keble College fame.

The font is a simple tub shape, carved with an eight-arched continuous arcade. Facing east is a figure of Moses flanked by a synagogue and Ecclesia, a female figure representing the Christian church. In a telling bit of symbolism the synagogue is shown crumbling into ruin. Ecclesia carries a pennon on a shaft; the shaft is broken and the pennon falls across her eyes. There is then a series of five fascinating figures representing Virtues triumphing over Vices. The names of the virtues are carved above each figure, while the name of the vice is carved backwards on the figure’s side so as “not to offend the potential reader”!! Is this the earliest example of Political Correctness and from pre-Norman times? Rather surprising given the approach of the monasteries using religion and Christianity in particular to keep the masses in check.

So, if you’re reading this, do comment on your own best photo of 2016 and why…..