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Spirits in Stone

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If you look up as you walk around the Old City you will see beautiful carved stone sculptures, figures and faces known as mascarons. Mascarons can be frightening or beautiful. They attempt to ward off evil spirits and perhaps display wealth. There are lots of figures and faces adorning and protecting buildings throughout the Old City.


The image at the top of the flag shows the angel found on the front of All Saints Church in St Nicholas Market. All Saints Church is thought to be the oldest church in Bristol, and is also home to a legend of buried treasure. 


King Henry VIII’s soldiers were sent to convert Catholic churches into his newly founded Church of England. Soldiers would loot the treasures and execute any monks who refused to convert. The monks at All Saints Church heard a rumour that the soldiers were on their way and managed to strip the church of all its valuables. When they did arrive, the holy men were sadly executed and the location of the huge fortune was lost with them. Maybe it’s buried right where you are standing?


Lower down we see the mysterious face of the veiled lady, one of a row of four faces on what was originally a pharmacy on this street. Although the exact meaning behind the veiled lady is unknown, there are theories that the heads represent the four seasons, with the veiled lady being Autumn, or even that she is a representation of Death. She is certainly an eerie presence watching over the streets of the Old City.


The next image shows the outline of the beautiful Victorian drinking fountain behind St Nicholas Market on St Nicholas Street. Cities were seen to be turning into depraved dens of vice through the over consumption of alcohol. It features the face of Queen Victoria and celebrated her fortieth birthday. It was hoped the Queen’s stern face and the free drinking water would encourage people to give up their gin!


At the bottom of the flag we find a beautiful example of a carved mask found on an ornately carved old bank building on Corn Street.  Often representing a Green Man or Bacchus figure this particular example features sea shells in its hair and is perhaps representing Neptune and Bristol’s status as a port city and its links to the sea. You might have another idea?

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