My thanks to the creator of the Hertfordshire Churches website for encouraging me to re-visit Clothall church in the hills above Baldock. I’d poked around it once before and entirely missed its treasure.
Behind the altar are three late medieval stained glass windows containing dozens of beautifully rendered birds, some of familiar species, some of species no longer seen in England, and others that you wonder how the craftsmen knew of their existence (see the ostrich or emu or rhea of whatever below). I haven’t attempted to do them justice, only giving you a taste to encourage you to visit.
Surrounded by these gorgeous creatures is a beautiful Virgin Mary, rendered with such humanity and in so touchingly understated a manner, a country girl of the 14th century. Give me this over renaissance grandeur any day.
Also of note is the piscina in the side chapel. The heads are clearly not of Europeans, suggesting that it was not only people who lived in ports and larger towns who came into contact with people from the wider world.