The Green Man of antiquity is a sculpture or painting of a face leering out of a tree or wall of leaves, that often adorns medieval churches, especially in England and Ireland. He is a “pagan” representative of a culture subjugated by Catholicism: a last gasp, a finger in the eye of the giant that had subsumed the formerly dominant paradigm of Druidism and nature worship. Green Men have been found as far away as India.

In India, amongst the Vishnus and Parvatis and Ganeshas, I saw no Green Men. Nor were they among the other gargoyles and menacing, leering visages that bedeck the various temples of that amazing country. But soon after arriving in Germany I found – without really looking – a troop of Green Men in one place.

 

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Visiting friends in Trier, Germany’s oldest city and a repository of Roman and medieval architecture, we stumbled on multiple Green Men in the Dom in the city’s old square, a massive, ornate colossus of a church that traces its foundation to 250 AD.

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