The Lincoln Imp – Lincoln, England - Atlas Obscura

The Lincoln Imp

Legend says this demonic carving inside a medieval cathedral was one of Satan's minions. 


Lincoln, England, is best known for its striking cathedral, which surpassed the Great Pyramid of Giza to become the tallest building in the world in 1311 and remained so for over two centuries. But its height isn’t the cathedral’s only allure. The magnificent structure also houses a curious resident who is the subject of legend.

The interior of the cathedral is full of ornate carvings, but one in particular has captured the imagination of visitors. Above a support pillar, staring at the people below, sits a grotesque of a creature known as an imp, with his legs crossed and an evil grin.

There are various legends surrounding the imp, a popular one is that Satan himself sent a group of imps to cause havoc and vandalize the cathedral. After breaking windows, damaging the choir, and assaulting a priest, an angel supposedly appeared and ordered them to stop. One of the brave imps fought back against the angel and was promptly turned to stone, thus becoming immortalized as the Lincoln Imp.

Today, you don’t even have to visit the cathedral to see him, as he has become a symbol of the city. His image appears on postcards, key rings, and every other type of tacky tourist merchandise. The local football team features him on its logo, and there is even a replica imp outside Lincoln College, Oxford, named after a former Bishop of Lincoln.

Know Before You Go

The Lincoln Imp is located in the Angel Choir, next to the East Window. If you have trouble seeing the Imp, for the small charge of 20 pence placed into a slot machine, you can temporarily switch on a spotlight to illuminate the Imp's exact position.

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