These compass drawn designs are by far the most common single motif that we come across, with several thousand recorded to date. They can range from simple circles, through six petalled flower designs (known as Daisy Wheels), to highly complex geometric constructions. Whilst the majority of them are small in size, being less than 100mm across, larger examples have been recorded that are nearly a metre across. It was originally believed that these designs were created by the actual masons who built the churches. They were thought to be either the mason’s teaching their apprentices the basics of geometry or creating a guide for themselves to ensure that their own dividers were correctly adjusted.
Whilst some of the compass drawn designs were undoubtedly created by the medieval
masons it now appears unlikely that they were responsible for anything other than
a very small percentage. The sheer number of examples, inscribed into stonework,
woodwork and even the lead linings of fonts, suggest that these designs were created
by far more than a single trade group and that they had a clear and distinct meaning
and function. At the present time we believe that the vast majority of these designs
acted as ‘ritual protection’ (apotropaic) markings. There is no simple explanation
of the form and function of apotropaic markings. At their most basic level they could
be seen as bringing luck and protecting individuals from evil or malign influence.
At a more complex quasi-
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