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A Strange Centaur

I think this is possibly the weirdest thing I've ever seen in a village church. An extremely crude carving of a centaur, guarded by a pair of demonic faces laid sideways. They are on the magnificent chancel arch in the Church of St John in the Worcestershire village of Beckford.

The centaur seems to be reaching out for his spear, standing just out of his reach around the curve of the column, while they are usually depicted as archers. On the opposite column a coiled snake is carved next to a round, expressionless face.

In legend the centaur was said to hunt "wild men", who would have been known in Europe as the Woodwose, a Bigfoot-like humanoid figure who represented the untamed wilderness. The centaur at Beckford is thought by some to possibly represent the old arms of King Stephen, as the village stood right on the border of his area of control, but his centaur is an archer rather than the spearman here, and why would it have been so badly carved? And what do the sideways beasts mean?

I take a tour through every village around the Bredon Hill area in my book The Mystery Of Mercia, available at the link in the comments.

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