Misericord Business

5211590647_09b438ac9d_oI visited the Cloisters over the weekend. That would be the outpost of the Met dedicated to medieval art and architecture? Strangely enough, it’s been on my to-do list for a decade! And now it’s crossed off.

Anyway, the Cloisters is a bit of a bore (except for the crypt room and the unicorn tapestry room) but I did glean something important from one of the exhibits: I learned about misericords.

Misericords (“mercy seats”) are the wooden shelves included on the underside of chapel seats. Back when the devout stood to pray for extended periods of time, the shelf was there to lean against and rest one’s weary bones; I would have appreciated a misericord myself, except that as a small boy in a Southern Baptist church I simply crawled under the pew and napped on the carpet. Sorry, medieval peasants!

The thing about misericords, though, is that they’re elaborately carved to be comic, grotesque, or terrifying. Which sums up the medieval era, right? I’m looking at you, Chaucer.

And, as you might imagine, the Internet is rife with fans of misericords. And, as you might also imagine, those fans are a bit…odd. Thankfully. I was planning to include a slideshow here, but it seems redundant given the very thorough Flickr sets out there.

I hope that, should you ever find yourself in my parlor, you’ll take a moment to check for faces beneath your seat?

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