Stebbing Roof Angels
Carved wooden roof angels are a notable feature of Suffolk and Norfolk churches, but not normally associated with Essex. They represent an important part of medieval iconography, and some of the more inaccessible ones managed to survive the purging of churches of graven images by 17th century iconoclasts. The roof in St Mary's Stebbing is an arched braced tie-beam roof, rather than hammerbeam. The bracket below each principal beam would have been the more obvious place to site the angels, but instead the angels are placed higher up on either end of the intermediate principals. There are 10 angels on these sub-principals, as well as smaller ones at the boss of each tie-beam on the west and east wall. Each angel holds a plain shield. Roof angels were usually painted with bright colours, and the shield might bear a coat of arms or symbols of religious significance. The wings of an angel denoted their role as spiritual messenger, as they hovered protectively over the congregation below.