button to main menu  Gents Mag 1749 p.217

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Gentleman's Magazine 1749 p.217


Bridekirk Font

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A Description of FIG. V. in the Miscellaneous Plate in last Magazine.
THIS curious piece of antiquity was dug up in the ruins of Papcastle, near Cockermouth, in Cumberland, among other antique remains. The author of Magna Britannia, &c. says, "What use it was made for, does not appear, but 'tis now used for a baptismal font (called by St Austin sacrarium regenerationis, the sacred laver of regeneration, and, probably, it was design'd for one." He adds, that it is of green stone, but it is really a whitish free-stone. (See Vol.XII. p.319 a greater mistake of this writer.) It stands in a square pedestal, about 8 inches high in the upright, and about three more in the perpendicular of the slope; this supports another of about 20 inches more, pretty near a cube hollow'd, being 22 inches on the South and North sides, and 20 on the other two.
It faces the porch door of Bridekirk, is lined with lead, and perforated at bottom to take off the baptismal water, and must be at least 900 years standing.
The front, or South side, engraving is betwixt 3 fillets; the uppermost, I imagine, contains two AEgoceri, or sea-goats, the ancient representation of Capricorn, in whose sign the sun was at the birth of Christ, and, probably, alludes to that; the middle fillet has a festoon of grapes, &c. and a human figure catching at a cluster, perhaps, to intimate the mystery of the passion, or of the Eucharist, and the advantages accruing to the partaker.
Betwixt that and the third fillet is the inscription, and below a female figure with a cup, probably, in her hand; and some festoons.
The East side has only two fillets, the uppermost contains an Amphisbaena, or a hydra rather, with two heads, one bent down over its body to the ground, the other erect, with a branch proceeding from its mouth, which in its process divides into three; the first head may denote the depression and extinction of the Mosaic scheme, the other the erection of the Christian one, and the mystery of the Trinity may be express's in the branch dividing into three, and both may be represented by the hydra.
The second fillet has a tree, and Joseph and Mary, I suppose, with the child, as Joseph is call'd a fruitful branch.
The North side confirms my conjectures on that of the South, where the two coelestial signs of Capricorn and Sagittary are represented; Sagittary is the concluding sign of the year, as Capricorn the initial one with regard to the solar return; intimating that the religion which sprung from the person born when the sun was in Capricorn, would continue to the consummation of things, or till the sun had gone into Sagittary, their emblem of the last period.
The fillet below, on the same side, has an allusion to the slaughter of the babes at Bethlehem, and a devotee in a religious posture kneeling, and taking hold of the true tree of life, notwithstanding the loss of her child, as the only means of her future acceptace and happiness.
The West side is in the same taste, but the figures wasted by time.
The learned Bp Nicolson supposes the Runic inscription should be read thus.

And to dis men red wor tanen men brogten.

Here Ekardwas converted, and to this man's example were Danishmen brought.
He conjectures that Ekard was a Danish general, who being baptized at this font, was the occasion of many of his officers and soldiers becoming Christians.
The Bishop is of opinion that the figures by way of embellishment, are only the fancy of the workman; but I am persuaded that they have an emblematical meaning, which can at this time only be conjectured.
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(* Perhaps this reading may help to explain the Inscription found at the Duke of Bedford's, which is in the same plate.)
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