Sean Lynch

It is difficult to speculate on the intentions behind the act of carving vermiculation, and detailed information is hard to find, perhaps as it is often considered marginal architectural decoration. Maybe the carver on the job thought of the pattern as an effective piece of ornament, and did not concern himself with any allegorical intent. Conceivably the chief carver or foreman was aware of this symbolism and viewed it as a way of suggesting the organic growth and subsequent decline of the built edifice. An architect may have seen vermiculation on a building in France or Italy on his grand tour, and made a quick drawing of the pattern alongside impressions of classical orders and proportion. Years later, he rediscovered that page with vermiculated pattern in an old sketchbook, and drew it into the blueprints for a new commission. Everyone might have copied a much-admired building up the road and slightly varied the pattern, adding to vermiculation’s mystique as a mutating virus, stylistically different in various locations but all the time pointing to inevitable decay.

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