The Green Man is one of the most familiar images from medieval art. A face radiating or disgorging leaves it can be found in churches and cathedrals across the British Isles and further afield, carved upon roof bosses, capitals, misericords and other architectural features.

In the twentieth century this familiar sylvan face took on a new life, becoming a figurehead of neo-pagan spirituality, representing our connection with nature and the seasonal rhythms of the earth. In this talk we’ll look at who ‘discovered’ and named the Green Man and what the legacy of this has been, before looking more closely at the contexts in which it can be found. Is it possible to trace different meanings and narratives among the imagery, and what might this reveal about medieval art and architecture?


Dr Alex Woodcock is a writer, stonemason and artist immersed in the worlds of medieval architecture and sculpture. Following a PhD on medieval sculpture he trained as a stonemason and worked at Exeter Cathedral for six years. His books include Gargoyles and Grotesques (Bloomsbury, 2011), Of Sirens and Centaurs (Impress, 2013) and King of Dust (Little Toller, 2019). He teaches on the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship degree and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. For more information see: or Twitter: @beakheads

Your curator and host for this event will be the writer Edward Parnell, author of Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country. Edward Parnell lives in Norfolk and has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. He is the recipient of an Escalator Award from the National Centre for Writing and a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. Ghostland (William Collins, 2019), a work of narrative non-fiction, is a moving exploration of what has haunted our writers and artists – as well as the author’s own haunted past; it was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley 2020 prize, an award given to a literary autobiography of excellence. Edward’s first novel The Listeners (2014), won the Rethink New Novels Prize. For further info see:

[Image: a carved boss in Exeter Cathedral depicting the Green Man. Photo taken by/copyright of Mark Ware.]