Grotesques Map Unveiled

A new online map that shows the position of grotesques in Coventry has now been published in the run up to Halloween.

The Coventry Grotesque map reveals for the first time, where to find the scores of dragons and demons, skulls, tongue-stickers and face-pullers, wounded statues, green men, and the grimacing grotesques and gargoyles that bedeck the buildings of Coventry.

There is a monstrous visual feast of gothic wonders, and their modern counterparts in street art, waiting to be found!

“These strange grotesques are the half-forgotten public art treasures of the city. They mostly go unnoticed. We want to bring them to people’s attention and share the fun of looking, and finding them”, says CovSoc member Mary Courtney.

The map is a collaboration between artist Mary Courtney and historian Daniel Reed, who both live in Coventry. It is supported by the Coventry Society and the University of Warwick.

“Many of the grotesques look like cartoon characters. They can be monstrous, fantastical, amusing or sinister. So many expressive faces. So many expressions! They’re not the sort of faces that people reveal on social media. Even the smiling ones have the edge of a clown, a look on the dark side.”

“I have lived in Coventry for most of my life and I only started noticing them a year ago. Each time Danny and I go looking we spot more”.

A good place to start is by looking up at the ruins of the old cathedral on the outside walls. There are so many dragons and other grotesques to spot there. Including batboy and the lizard-woman scratching her head.

Even in the new cathedral there are dragons and snakes to be found. Look carefully and you might spot several on the John Hutton etched glass screen West Window. There is a snake and a gorgeous red dragon in the stained glass windows on the right hand side, and there’s even a snake in the chalice on the tapestry.

Another hotspot is St John the Baptist Church on Fleet Street. Check out the back door outside for a gallery of 31 small grotesques and green men carved into the wood. St John’s is open to visitors on Saturday mornings 10-12noon and demons, a tongue-sticker, green men and mythical beasts are up on the ceiling inside waiting to be found.

The Old Blue Coat school in the city centre is another great place to look. See what you can spot. You might notice modern stone carvings with the face wearing glasses.

Inside Holy Trinity Church are three very strange wood carvings of green men. One is under a seat! Ask the staff to point them out. If you look up on the ceiling of the Marler Chapel you will be rewarded with spotting a chain of skulls. And there is the magnificent medieval Doom painting, complete with coffins, and the mouth of hell! Holy Trinity is open to visitors on Saturdays and Wednesdays 11am-3pm.

“Mary and I have had such fun hunting all over the city, and we’re thrilled to share that excitement with other grotesque-spotters with the launch of our digital map!, says Daniel Reed.

The new map is accompanied by a 10 minute slideshow “Coventry Grotesque”, released to promote the digital map. It will be shown at the LTB, Litten Tree Building Showrooms, 1st Floor of the Litten Tree Pub, 1 Warwick Rd, CV1, 1EX, on Saturday October 30th and Sunday October 31st between 12noon and 4pm. Drop in at any time during these hours to see it. Free. The film is also being released on You Tube and Coventry Grotesque Facebook and Instagram pages.

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