Misericords: The Best-Kept Secret in English Cathedrals and Churches

118 TUTOR: Matt Gow (BA RSA Dip)

Misericords are the hidden wooden seats designed to ease the suffering of those standing at prayer for hours on end, found mainly, but not exclusively, in cathedrals up and down the land. They are a modern day phenomena that survived the Reformation, the English Civil War and misguided 20th century modernisation programmes. They portray intriguing images that range in scope from mythical creatures to Biblical scenes and everyday depictions of domestic medieval life. This course will explain their origins and the messages they were intended to send. You will go on field trips to Tewkesbury, Gloucester and Fairford to see some spectacular examples and learn more about these fascinating and enduring pieces of medieval art. Please note that three days of this course will involve trips in a minibus.

Course Notes


We will begin the course by exploring the historical origins of misericords and take an overview on what influenced their invention.Then we will move onto explore how to decode the different images and symbols found on misericords by looking at a wide range of examples.


We will visit Tewkesbury Abbey.


We will continue exploring the different themes that make up misericords and also look at how misericords are made.


We will visit Gloucester Cathedral and Fairford Church


We will finish the course with a visit from a modern wood carver explaining the process of making a misericord.

Reading list

English Misericords Marshall Laird

Church Misericords and Benchends Richard Hayman

English Medieval Misericords Paul Hardwick

A little book of Misericords Mike Harding

Course Tutor

Matt Gow


About Matt

Matt was educated at Rugby School and studied Politics at Queen Mary College, London University after three years in the US Marines. He is a keen traveller and has two daughters studying at Marlborough College.

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Summer School Dates for 2024

All courses run for 5 days

WK 1 8 Jul - 12 Jul

WK 2 15 Jul - 19 Jul

WK 3 22 Jul - 26 Jul

WK 4 29 Jul - 2 Aug

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9.15AM to 12.15PM

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1.45PM to 4.30PM

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