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I had a wander around a church last weekend…

On the white plaster ceiling, high up in the spacious church in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, are two circular emblems. The details are hard to make out with the naked eye: one shows a pelican feeding her young with her blood – a widely-used religious motif, symbolising Christ’s sacrifice, while the other depicts the lower half of some chap’s body as he’s being gobbled up by a greedy, big-mouth demonic face.

It’s the devil swallowing Judas, I learn. Outlandish touches like this don’t match people’s cosy idea of Anglicanism. When we visit a Hindu temple in India we are shocked and fascinated by goddesses with necklaces of skulls, and all manner of other frightening figures. But even here in the quiet Cotswolds, places of worship have their dark, pagan or simply strange embellishments.

They’re not always prominently placed. But like appreciating paintings in an art gallery, or observing nature on a Cotswold Way ramble – the more you look, the more you see.

church, Wotton-under-Edge

St Mary the Virgin, Wotton-under-Edge

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