Suffolk has many pretty Norman parish churches. Saint Mary’s, in Troston, near Bury Saint Edmunds, contains an intriguing collection of large medieval murals and plenty of graffiti.
On the bell tower arches there are dates and names inscribed. At the chancel end, there are often patterns and shapes. The Troston Demon sits within them. Finding this little blighter is not easy though.
I cheated a little to get you this far, because the picture at the top is actually on its side. This is what the chancel arch, which contains the demon, actually looks like:
Zooming in a bit…
Seen it yet? Amongst hundreds of other little scratches there’s a more deeply inscribed pentangle. It appears this was scored by many parishioners to keep the demon ‘pinned down’. The pentangle is now thought of as a ‘Satanic Star’, but had positive connotations in the medieval period. Historian Matthew Champion explains below:
Thought to represent the five wounds of Christ, the pentangle was, according to the fourteenth-century poem ‘Gawain and the Green Knight’, the heraldic device of Sir Gawain – the Christian hero who personified both loyalty and chivalry. The poem describes the symbolism of the pentangle in great detail, taking forty-six lines to do so. The symbol is, according to the anonymous author of the Gawain poem, a ‘sign by Solomon’, or endless knot, and was the symbol engraved upon the ring given to King Solomon by the archangel Michael.
Matthew Champion, The Graffiti Inscriptions of St Mary’s Church, Troston
The rest of the demon’s form is around the pentangle. A pointy ear to the right, a thin hairy neck below and the facial features, complete with hideous tongue, to the left.
It’s like a medieval cartoon character. Given Saint Mary’s Troston was built in the 12th century, with wall art dating from the 1350s, it seems likely the demon graffiti was engraved around this time.
A Suffolk church gem – and there are many others!
Find our more about medieval religion
All photos in this article were taken by the author.