The Three Hares appeared in numerous locations along the route through Asia and Europe, decorating both Islamic artefacts and Jewish synagogues, as well as European churches.
Travelling craftspeople, perhaps caught up in the monstrous machine of the crusades, seem to have seen the design and liked it, and brought it back with them. Whether they also brought with them any sense of the motif's symbolism we do not know; we are free to reach our own conclusions about what the hares represent, but there they are, on the rooves of our churches, as their sisters continue to decorate the holy places of others cultures and faiths.
Visit the excellent site about the Three Hares, for fascinating photos and further information: http://www.chrischapmanphotography.co.uk/hares/index.html
|a 12th century version from Syria / Egypt|
The Green Man and the Three Hares say something to me about 'British national identity.' We are and always have been part of a wider world that has inspired 'us' and enriched 'us' culturally, throughout history; in fact 'us' makes no sense unless we consider that the population itself is an amazing gathering of peoples from all places too, stretching back to the time of the last ice age. Even the very first people here didn't spontaneously generate from our beloved rocks and soil, they walked here from the continent along with lots of animals, over a land-bridge that now lies under the sea.
|the land bridge, 10 000 years ago|
It seems to me that there is such a long history of fluidity and cross-cultural communication concerning the make-up of Britain, as the Three Hares and the Green Man illustrate, that it is almost impossible to pin down one definition of identity - unless it is 'fluidity' and 'cross-cultural communication' itself.
Our ancestors seem to have given us a beautiful icon for our times, by bringing the gifts of the wider world firmly into their holy places, and welcoming them as their own.