The church is an ordinary building, raised on a considerable elevation. The sexton being engaged in harvesting, we were unable to procure the key, but easily found admission by the window, shewing, as in good King Edgar’s time, that there is no dread of dishonest or sacrilegious intruders. We were exceedingly well paid for our escalade, by the unexpected and therefore agreeable discovery of a noble specimen of early Norman (if not Saxon) architecture, in the round arch dividing the chancel of the church from the nave.
J W Ord 1846
ST MICHAEL. Nave and chancel and bell-turret. All of the restoration of 1902-3, it seems, except large patches of masonry which look Norman. They are indeed; for the chancel arch is a quite spectacular Norman piece of three orders.
Nikolaus Pevsner 1966
I was keen to visit this beautiful church after reading Rita Ward’s paper, The Romanesque Chancel Arch at Liverton. She explains how the arch has the appearance of a teaching scheme, the right side of the arch depicts the fall of man and the potential for redemption. The left hand side of the arch is purely symbolic, to be read as a metaphor of spiritual things, in the anagogical sense.
The fall, salvation and the hope of heavenAdam and the tree of lifeAdam and Eve and the serpent
Eve and an Angel, foliate head, Hunter and horn The Green Man or foliate head is thought to represent Christ the Vine, the life giving blood and eternal life.
The boar hunt. The boar symbolises the devil, the two good dogs stay with the hunter, the third dog strays and is trampled by the boar.
Heavenly Paradise. Death yields its prey to Christ the Redeemer
In medieval manuscripts intricate lacing is often used to symbolise heaven
The snake-like Wyvern. In the classical Roman tradition, the snake shedding its skin is a suggestion of eternal life.
The Chancel Arch is made of three orders. The two inner orders of chevrons suggest the power of God in the altar, the third, outer, order is comprised of bestial masks emitting foliage suggesting resurrection and heaven.
There is a lovely old photograph on the East Cleveland Image Archive of the arch prior to the restoration of the church.
Thanks to Karen Ward, Church Warden, and the parishioners of Liverton for their warm welcome and allowing me to photograph their beautiful church.
The History & Antiquities of Cleveland. John Walker Ord. 1846
The Buildings of England, Yorkshire The North Riding. Nikolaus Pevsner. 1966
The Romanesque Chancel Arch at Liverton. Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol.78 2006