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Roman relief of Aesculpius embedded in the south wall of the Church of St Giles, Tockenham, Wiltshire, England

Several miles north of Clyffe Pypard, at Tockenham in Wiltshire, England, lies the little Church of St Giles. Writing on her blog, North Stoke, Thelma Wilcox says –

This church is not of notable interest, but the reused Roman statue embedded in the wall probably came from the Roman villa nearby. “Roman tesserae, tile fragments and pottery sherds were found at Tockenham and a possible villa was suggested. The site has been subject to investigation by the Time Team in 1994 and was confirmed as being a villa with associated structures, probably dating from the 2nd to 4th centuries. Finds from the excavations have included pottery, tesserae, window glass fragments and roofing tile. Scheduled.” Taken from Pastscape Monument No.887838.

“The Rod of Asclepius symbolizes the healing arts by combining the serpent, which in shedding its skin is a symbol of rebirth and fertility with the staff, a symbol of authority, befitting the god of Medicine. The snake wrapped around the staff is widely claimed to be a species of rat snake, Elaphe longissima, also known as the Aesculapian (Asclepian) snake. It is native to south-eastern Europe, Asia Minor and some central European spa regions, apparently brought there by Romans for their healing properties.” Taken from Wikipedia.

The snake wrapped round Aesculpius’s rod is a single snake and not to be confused with Mercury’s double snakes. There are also wooden posts embedded in the south wall of the church – Pevesner says, that inside, the bell-turrets stand on old posts, and that they are flanked by new timber-framed work.

More on Clyffe Pypard and Nikolaus Pevsner here.


May 2014
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