Name/TitleFoliate Head or 'Green Man' in Norwich Cathedral
About this objectBede tells us that in 601, Pope Gregory (540–604) wrote to Abbot Mellitus, who was about to join Augustine on his conversion mission in England, instructing him not to destroy places of worship of the old gods but to reuse the sites as Christian temples, erecting altars and placing relics: so 'that the nation, seeing that their temples are not destroyed …may the more familiarly resort to the places to which they are accustomed.'
The image known now as 'Green Man' (although this unifying term was only coined in a 1939 article by Julia Hamilton (Lady Raglan)), depicts a disembodied foliate head, and has been variously traced back by scholars to the Greek/Roman god Dionysus/Bacchus or one of the Norse gods, such as Mímir the uncle of Odin. Others interpret him as a tree god. Whatever his significance, he commonly appears in Christian churches in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, especially from the 11th century, such as the example shown here.
Date Made15th century
Subject and Association KeywordsEncounters
Subject and Association DescriptionLearn More: Basford 1996; Negus 2003; Norwich Cathedral video; Raglan 1939.
Medium and MaterialsWood
Credit LineNorwich Cathedral
Object numberEXH34: Green Man