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Tympanum over S doorway, detail head of horse

Image of the feature "III. Exterior Features: 3. Exterior Decoration: d. Miscellaneous: 1. Tympanum reset over S doorway" at Damerham.

by Ron Baxter.

A small, approximately semicircular figural tympanum of Caen stone (Simon Alford’s opinion) is reset in the wall above the S nave doorway, protected by the porch. It is made up of two stones; a large lower block is a slightly depressed semicircle with the top segment missing.  It is framed by a raised border except along the flat top.  The semicircle is completed by an upper block with a frame along the upper curved edge only.  The two pieces do not fit together accurately, nor is the curvature between them continuous, and the lower block is rather more eroded than the upper.

The subject is an armed and mounted knight shown in L profile. He carries a kite-shaped shield on his L arm and his R arm is raised and holds a sword that is broken off by the edge of the lower stone of the tympanum, and was probably lomger when carved. His legs, with feet, in stirrups, extend forwards, and he leans forward too, producing a sense of forward motion.  He holds the reins of his horse, which has a bridle and a breast collar with circular trappings hanging from it. All its feet are on the ground apart from the R fore, which is raised to ride down a fallen knight shown lying on his R side with head to L of the tympanum, i.e facing the viewer. He wears armour and an open helmet, allowing his face to be seen, and he carries an axe in his R hand and with his L holds up a circular shield in a failed attempt to protect himself from the advancing rider.  At the lower R corner of the tympanum, by the end of the horse’s tail but apparently not attached to it is a complex object clearly relevant to the iconography but difficult to identify with certainty.  Various interpretations of the scene are given in the Comments section below. 

The tympanum was discovered under the ivy on the Old Vicarage wall in 1916, and was returned to the church from which it was assumed to have originated.

Dimensions

Diameter of tympanum 0.95m
Height of lower block 0.44m
Height of tympanum (both blocks) 0.57m