Processions, giants and beasts

Slide 6
On arrival at Harescombe, Bishop Maidstone strikes the church door with his crozier
Procession (2)
Giant St Blaise leading the procession at Frampton

From biblical times, the procession has been at the heart of religious ceremony.  By the fourteenth century this included giants and beasts, music and dance.

This heritage has been largely lost in England as such figures as giants and beasts were considered frivolous at the time of the Reformation, and dancing was ‘of no necessary use’.  However, the tradition of the patronal or dedication day procession survives in Mediterranean countries where it is often a public holiday, and is experiencing a small, but significant revival in England.

Our giant is St Blaise, the Patron Saint of Woolcombers, who was much-venerated at Frampton on Severn in medieval times.

Beast in the form of a fish. Biblia inglesa del siglo XIII. Alençon, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 56, fol. 250r.
Beast in the form of a fish.
Biblia inglesa del siglo XIII. Alençon, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 56, fol. 250r.

Our beast is Siglo the Salmon, and have taken our inspiration from a manuscript which shows a beast in the form of a fish. Two of our churches lie alongside the river Severn, and St Blaise was associated with extracting a fishbone from the throat of a young boy, making the choice of a salmon for our beast particularly appropriate.

Our Dedication Day processions were held in Whaddon and Frampton. Our latest 1315 Procession newsletter and the 1315 Procession website give details of how we became involved in the giant and beast-making workshops, costume-making, and learnt how to dance, sing and play the music of 700 years ago.

With a little bit of imagination, it is easy to create a ‘medieval’ hobby horse. At the Churchwardens’ Ale at Frampton, there was even a hobby horse competition.

Other communities have been inspired by Dedication 1315, witness the magnificent Tetbury Bull and the giant Bishop Maidstone at Preston on Stour.