What Lies Beneath?
We’re traditionally ugly so people generally don’t look too closely. In any case, why would anyone bother when the whole beauty of the chapel lies behind me? Duck underneath the archway where I lie tucked away like a lesion under an armpit and enter a medieval world of stony dreams. The place, I am told, is ancient almost beyond imagining, and held up by pillars with intricately twisted carved vines, an array of stonemasons’ skill. There are religious carvings, whole tracts of The Bible told in stone, pagan green men peering out of the walls and other carvings that no one can give a proper account for – and those cause the most interest of all.
In the winters it is quiet here, only the most dedicated worshippers or treasure-seekers come to this windswept, lonely outpost. Even the vicar doesn’t make it up here on some days.
I am not one of those fancy gargoyles you get with the long necks and water-spouting mouths. I am small and ugly and my face has started to crumble away over the centuries. I am not decorative, just plonked here to shore up the mortar behind me and keep the old chapel standing tall through time.
I am not even perched over the main entrance, just a rarely used side door. No doubt that was what appealed on that rainy night countless years ago. The knight, not in shining armour but a drenched and bloodied tunic, on a tired and fractious horse, speaking earnestly with the vicar. Threats, even curses, before the old man gave in and showed him the loose stone behind me. A small cloth bag, a crudely fashioned old goblet wrapped in many layers of silk, panic in the rain, furtive glances over shoulders and finally the grail stowed in the bricks behind me, covered again with old mortar and hidden behind my snarling face.
The camera crews, the treasure-hunters, the amateur enthusiasts risking the vicar’s displeasure by wielding metal detectors through his precious church, the desperate searching of those who would rip this place apart brick by brick to get what lies tucked away behind me…I have seen it all. I keep my secret and stick my tongue out.