The Arches, to the north of the present church, originate from around 1000 years ago. They come from a 12th century Norman church on the site and feature some exhilarating carvings which, very sadly, have not weathered well, exposed to the elements in their current location, where they've stood since about 1756 when the newer church was built. The carvings are similar in quality to the more famous works at Kilpeck, south of Hereford, in fact a school of sculpture has been identified in this area in the period after the Norman conquest. It is beleived that Shobdon was the first chuch in England to have this 'radiating' method of carving, which originated in Aquitaine, France, where virtuosic examples may be found.
A steward of the Mortimers, named Oliver de Merlimond was responsible for the creation of the first stone church at Shobdon. He went on a pilgrimage to Santiago de la Compostela in north-west Spain and presumably took along some carvers who had the opportunity to expand their skills upon their return after seeing the works of the French en route. After Shobdon was completed they worked on the nave of Hereford Cathedral, Kilpeck and Rowlstone and Leominster Priory amongst others. In their original state the carvings would have been painted and would thus have appeared even more lavish. The photo on the right shows a face at the top of one column which sadly no longer exists, having crumbled away forever sometime between 1972 and 1989. There has been talk over the years of preserving these unique masterpieces of artistic carving by building some kind of protective structure around the Arches, but to the eternal shame of the relevant authorities nothing has happened and they continue to deteriorate so see them before they are gone.
There are, in addition to the exuberant columns and archways, two Tympanum showing Christ in Majesty (shown left and right) and, sadly once again, a scene of the Harrowing of Hell which has almost completely weathered away.