Church Monuments Society



Month: June 2020
Type: Chest tomb   Effigy  
Era: 14th Century

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St Roch
Pendomer Rd, Yeovil BA22 9PH

More about this monument

The effigy of Sir John Domer sits in an elaborately carved niche with supports for candles to be lit around the tomb


The church of St Roch at Pendomer (Somerset) boasts in a recess on the north side of the nave a fine medieval monument of a knight placed on a low tomb chest under an original and elaborate canopy with a cinquefoil-arch. The whole is carved from Ham stone, a honey-coloured, shelly limestone of the Jurassic era, from Ham Hill, near Yeovil. This stone was extracted by digging into the ground. Evidence of this survives today by the many pits to be seen on the hill, which broadly resembles a lunar landscape.

The village of Pendomer was originally known as Penne. From 1066 to 1090 the manor was owned by Count Robert of Mortain (William II’s half-brother). On his death, the manor passed to the de la Penne family. It was inherited by Agnes de la Penne who married in 1148 Ralph de Domer of Dummer in Hampshire in 1166.The manor was subsequently known as Penne-Domer or, as it is now know, Pendomer. There were three sons of the marriage: Henry, Geoffrey (who became parson of Domer) and Robert. Henry, the eldest, was the grandfather of Sir John de Domer who is believed to have rebuilt the church in memory of his father (who is commemorated by an effigy in St Mary’s church at nearby Chiltorne Domer) and dedicated it to St Roch. It is Sir John who is commemorated by the tomb. He is last recorded in 1321 and the monument probably dates from later in the same decade.

The effigy is a fine example of medieval sculpture. Sir John is shown reclining with his legs crossed with his hands in prayer and his body turned outwards so that he gazes at the viewer. The head rests on a great helm with 10 breathing holes in the form of crosses, and his feet on a lion, a common footrest for military effigies, perhaps to symbolise bravery, valour and strength. He wears a long surcoat over mail, the former being split to the waist to reveal the poleyns ( knee defences) and a hauberk (short tunic of mail) over a vertically-split aketon (quilted under-garment). He displays the arms of Domer (a crescent between 6 billets) on both the shield and his surcoat.

Of even more interest than the effigy is its architectural context. The mouldings at the verge of the recess are projected to form a cinquefoil headed arch. The cusps are pierced and the two lower ones terminate in figures of half angels, both of whom have lost their heads. Close inspection reveals that the angel on the right bears in its hands a small human figure intended to represent the soul of the deceased, which is being borne towards heaven. This is an interesting example of resurrection imagery.

The most unusual feature, however, is the embattled cornice ornamented with rosettes over the arch. Either side of the recess and standing on corbels are small, carved human figures intended as caryatids, which support the cornice. Each wears a loose bliaus (blouse or smock frock), tied at the waist by a cord, and reaching to a little below the knees.  Beneath this they wear close fitting hose and laced or buttoned ankle-boots.  Their hair is long and wavy and covered by a cap.  Their arms are raised to support the cornice, the battlements of which are surmounted by small prikets (spikes). This is a rare survival. The prikets were originally intended to support wax lights on significant occasions, such as the anniversary of the obit (death) of Sir John. Although there is no record of a chantry it does not mean that Sir John did not establish one here or that he did not provide for a priest to celebrate mass in front of the tomb. That they are still used is shown by the burn marks on the plaster above.

Sally Badham

The Domer Tomb (click on the thumbnails to expand)