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The Conversion of the Vikings in Mercia

This tympanum with very dramatic imagery resides inside St Leonard's Church in the Staffordshire village of Ipstones. Looked at in a Christian context it probably represents the two beasts featured in Revelations, but is there more to it?


The church began as an early Norman establishment so one might be correct in assuming its style to be Romanesque, taking in Saxon, Norse and Celtic influences. But this is only an assumption, based on there being no mention of an earlier church in the Domesday Book.


It's not unheard of for characters from the Scandinavian pagan world to appear on Christian structures, perhaps as metaphors for individuals from the bible, so could this have been the case here?


If the tympanum, which does resemble Scandinavian art, particularly the Ringerike style, dates from a century earlier than first assumed then it may have been created during the reign of Sweyn, Cnut or Harthacnut. Ipstones was within the Danelaw.


Could these battling beasts be characters from the Ragnarok story, perhaps Fenrir and Jormungandr? Put into a Christian context to remind churchgoers of the impending doom of Revelations, knowing that they were already familiar with the world-ending Ragnarok?



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