What is the Lincoln Imp?

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Lincoln Cathedral boasts a Lilliputian stone inhabitant said to be sent by Satan himself to unleash hell on earth. CHRISTINE MILLER reveals the legend behind the Lincoln Imp.

The Lincoln Imp has appeared on many postcards
The Lincoln Imp has appeared on many postcards

The city of Lincoln is a mysterious one, filled with a rich history and loaded with ghost stories. However it is most famous for a miniature wrong ‘un descended from the netherworld: the Lincoln Imp is quite the legend and has become one of, if not the foremost symbol of the city, which is situated in England’s East Midlands. 

A Dastardly Duo Descend From Hell

According to mythology, the Devil himself, being in a wicked mood, sent two diminutive – and particularly riotous – imps to wreak as much havoc as they possibly could on earth. Their first stop was at Chesterfield in Northern England where they twisted the spire of St Mary and All Saints Church, but they soon decided that Lincoln would be quite the suitable place for their nefarious deeds. 

Spotting the ninth-century cathedral, they took their chance. 

There they tore up bibles, broke stained glass windows, flung furniture, ruined the lights and danced merrily on the altar. As if this wasn’t bad enough, there are even allegations that the pair successfully assaulted the bishop. As the satanic minions turned their attention to destroying the Angel Choir of the cathedral, an angel who heard the unholy commotion released herself from a hymn book poised on the altar and scolded the imps for their perverse behaviour inside the sacred site. One of the imps was having none of it; he intrepidly began to throw stones and insults at the angel, while the second was scared of her and hid away amongst the broken pieces of furniture.

The angel turned the first violence-loving, potty-mouthed imp into stone where he can still be seen in the upper reaches of the cathedral, while she unwisely gave the second deviant an opportunity to flee. 

Legend has it that the second imp, on nights when the weather is particular fowl, prowls the exterior of the cathedral searching for his mineralised friend. 

A Lesson Not Learned

Another story tells a different tale, however. It is said that the second imp made his way to Grimsby where he continued his mischief making in St James’ Church. The angel quickly made her presence known and gave a series of sharp smacks to the imp’s behind before promptly turning him to stone.

He can be seen inside the church of St James, still clutching his sore bottom. 

The Imp’s Influence

The imp has been a symbol of Lincoln for centuries. To many people, the imp is easily the most identifiable representation of the city. After all, they are everywhere – on door knockers and in gift shops, and even the local football team are  called the Red Imps. There is an imp trail throughout Lincoln planned (post COVID) that boasts some rather unique, shall we say, imp designs.

Visiting The Lincoln Imp

Lincoln England

Lincoln Cathedral, or Lincoln Minster, the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lincoln, or sometimes also known as St Mary’s Cathedral –  is situated in Minster Yard in the city. You can view its infamous inhabitant at the Angel Choir, situated beside the eastern window. 

There the imp sits in his patrifacted, menacing glory for all of eternity. 

Have you visited Lincoln’s most notorious hellraiser? Tell us about it in the comments section below! 

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