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The Guardian: Was John Wesley distracted by Bristol church’s topless statue?

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The statue of a bare-breasted woman has been uncovered in a Bristol, England, church where John Wesley preached.

Art experts removed a piece of 17th century armor consisting of a breastplate and backplate so that “she now stands – as they believe the artist intended – with her green frock pulled down and a red shawl wrapped around her shoulders,” writes Steven Morris in the British newspaper the Guardian.

Her torso was discreetly covered for centuries, prompting speculation that the half-clad figure was considered too much of a distraction for Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The figure is thought to be “Abundantia,” a Roman personification of abundance and prosperity. The statue, holding a cornucopia of fruit, may have been placed during the 1600s in a building that is part of the 12th-century Priory Church of St. James.

Wesley, who lived from 1703 to 1791, held prayer meetings in there before his group could build their own place of worship.

The statue was found during a restoration of the historic buildings. Conservation experts removed a the armor so that she now stands with nothing between her green skirt and a red shawl wrapped around her shoulders.

“She is pretty super,” writes Andrew Ziminski in Cornerstone, the magazine of the United Kingdom’s Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. “She was covered in a brown sludge and we found her tucked away above the fireplace.”

“Although he [Wesley] wasn’t much of a prude himself,” notes Ziminski, “it was perhaps his followers who wanted the figure covered up – bosoms are bosoms and flesh is flesh.”

“She does not feel English to me and could have been taken to Bristol by someone visiting the city on a ship.”

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