Misericords from the Latin word meaning pity are also known as ‘mercy seats’. These are the ledges or rests in choir stalls so that clergy singing the divine offices could rest their weary legs. The clerical perches were often hinged so the misericord carving could only be seen when the perch was raised. Many oak choir stalls with their misericords were placed in churches during the medieval period; their carvers are largely anonymous and the meaning behind the carvings sometimes lost but they remain a fascinating glimpse of the past.
Hemingborough in Yorkshire has some of the earliest examples of misericords in this country and Exeter Cathedral has a complete set dating from the Thirteenth Century.
The carvers used their imaginations when they created each misericord. Some scenes come from the Bible; others like the foliate green men sporting leaves from their mouths come from an earlier folklore; some…
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