The Swede Selma Lagerlöf (the first woman to win the Nobel prize for literature for her story about a boy who flies with a flock of geese ‘The Wonderful Adventures of Nils’) wrote a collection of stories about Christ, called ‘Christ Legends’ among them is the story of how the robin got its red breast. No not the other one about the spark from the fire, which is probably more well-known and definitely older, this is a different tale behind the red feathers, here is a very much shortened version of the story.
As Christ hung of the cross the robin, whose breast wasn’t red at this point, watched on in sorrow. He wished he was brave and strong like an eagle so that he could swoop down and remove the nails from Christ’s hands and feet, but he was too small and also too fearful to go near humans. Then the robin saw a thorn pushing into Christ’s forehead and decided that although he wasn’t an eagle and wasn’t brave and strong he had to do something. So he girded up all his strength and might and flew up to Christ and very gentle pulled the thorn out of his forehead. As he did so a drop of blood fell onto his breast. Ever since that day the robin’s breast has been red and he is no longer fearful of humans.
Selma’s book was published in 1908 and while it never dawned on me at the time I took the above picture I am now wondering if there are other references to her book in the carvings. Time to read the book again so that next time I am at St Bride’s I can find out the answer to that.