What do the carvings show?
Apples and pears symbolise the Tree of Life
The Lily symbolise the Virgin Mary, and embody the qualities of chastity, innocence, purity and piety-the Lily is shown here between two Dolphins. Dolphins regularly appear within Renaissance carvings, they symbolise salvation and Resurrection, to the Classical and Christian world.
Strings of beads represent rosaries - Prayer beads would be a common sight in the 16th century.
Pomegranates represent the church the seeds being the congregation and the bucrania (ox skull) represents sacrifice.
The subjects depicted within the oak carvings were originally thought to be secular, and not of a religious nature – however, Dr Riall’s research, (commissioned for the ‘Heart of Oak conservation project’), has now confirmed that the carvings are full of religious symbolism that would have been easily understood by a 16th century audience.
The 16 oldest panels which have been dated between 1525 and 1538 are carved in what is known as the all’antica style, (after the classical). They are the earliest all’antica work to be identified in Devon and along with the screen at Bradley Manor and the door at St Mary’s Church in Totnes, form part of a small South Devon group. Here are just a few of the religious symbols represented within the carvings.