St Luke's, Ousby: Good Knight

At St Luke’s Church at Ousby, Cumbria, is the effigy of a medieval knight. Such a sight is not uncommon, but this one is carved from a single piece of oak, which is rare. His identity is unknown, though the date of 1250 is mooted. His legs are crossed, which has led some to think he was a crusader, though I see little proof that crossed legs is attributable to anything other than artistic style. Although some of his right hand and left arms are missing, there is one thing that cannot be denied- he has a rather lovely smile. This is unusual for medieval effigies, which are either expressionless or are intended to match the warlike dress by looking decidedly grim. No, this chap is definitely smiling, for which I like him all the more.

We Christians believe this chap is conscious and alive, somewhere. If he trusted in Christ’s saving work, despite his Church’s erroneous teachings, I might have a chat with him at the resurrection. If his smile reflects a wan satisfaction with his life, especially the killing part of the knightly job description, then his smile is somewhat misplaced. If it is the artist’s own device, a flourish to prove his carpentry skills, then we read too much into it. But if that smile shows a godly confidence in Jesus, a quiet trusting in His offer of sins’ forgiveness, then it is a smile I hope to wear on my own death bed.

Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His saints. Psalm 116:15