St George grotesque finished for Patron Saint’s Day

A newly-carved grotesque of St George will have its finishing touches applied on Tuesday (23 April) by a York Minster stonemason to mark the Patron Saint’s day.

The grotesque has been produced as part of an 11 year, £11m project to conserve and restore the cathedral’s 14th century South Quire Aisle, which involves repairing and replacing stone and glass in 15 windows bays.

It is one of four new grotesques created by the Minster’s stonemasons to replace weathered figures removed from the cathedral last year, which were believed to date from the late 1700s.

Although badly eroded, it was clear the 200-year-old carvings had once shown three human figures and an animal or beast, which provided the starting point for developing the saint and – as legend has it – his traditional foe, the dragon.

“Where possible, we like to replace like for like in the carving work we do,” explains York Minster stonemason Richard Bossons.

“We use the surviving fabric as a starting point and take inspiration from historic sources to ensure the design of the grotesque is in-keeping with the period of the building it will feature on. The figure was extremely eroded but we could see the positioning of the arms and legs and it was clear the figure had been holding something like a sword, so this, along with the fact one of the figures was a beast, gave scope to develop St George and the dragon.”

Richard based the knight’s armour on details from an effigy on a church tomb in West Tanfield, which also dates from the late 1300s, and took inspiration for the sword and hilt from designs from the medieval period.

The 3ft figure, which took ten weeks to design and carve, will sit alongside a dragon, carved by Lee Godfrey and two other grotesques currently being produced by stonemasons Harriet Pace and Dave Willett.

Harriet’s carving is the first grotesque she has produced for the cathedral since joining the Stoneyard team in 2010.

For each grotesque, the mason’s research their subject before producing a design which may be drawn or modelled in clay. These may be reviewed by the Master Mason and cathedral architect before the stone carving work commences.

The grotesques will sit 70 feet (21 metres) above the ground as part of a pinnacle which the team are rebuilding, using magnesian limestone from a quarry near Tadcaster. They are due to be fixed in place on the Minster later this year.

The York Minster Fund is currently raising money for the restoration of the South Quire Aisle. For more information, and to support the conservation work, visit www.yorkminster.org.