Friday, 24 July 2015

St Mary's Stow-in-Lindsey

Big skies, wide rolling landscapes crisscrossed by ancient watery dykes, willow tree fringed; views as far as the eye can see; these for me define the Lincolnshire Wolds and Fens
There is something very appealing about the vernacular architecture of
long low slung cottages sitting beneath pretty terracotta pan-tiled roofs 
However, some of the oldest surviving buildings still in use in Lincolnshire are churches, many of which were built before the Norman Conquest in 1066. Fragments of these buildings still survive today, in some cases more than fragments, and one of those churches is St Mary's Stow-in-Lindsey. It is one of the oldest parish churches in England; founded in the C7 and considered to have originally served as the Cathedral Church to the ancient diocese of Lindsey, that is, until Lincoln Cathedral was constructed in the C11. 
 Lincoln Cathedral - Norman at its heart but a triumphal tribute to C12 - C14 Early English Gothic style 

The Worlds Monuments Fund lists St. Mary's as being one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world. It is in desperate need of weatherproofing and then for the internal decoration work to be addressed. The good news is that this major work and restoration is now underway.

A pleasing example of window history summarising the story that is St. Mary's.
The slit window is Saxon, the round window late Norman, whilst the Decorated Gothic window dates from the C13
Viewed from the outside the Saxon window has a simple 'palmette' decoration to the hood; there are Saxon long and short stone quoins at the corners similar to those seen at Odda's Chapel, Deerhurst. 

Mighty original Saxon arches in the central crossing remain
Once supporters of a Saxon tower now replaced by a C15 tower. The Saxon arches are sadly rather diminished and overpowered by the later Gothic arches erected to support the new tower
Quote by Simon Jenkins
"The Gothic arches have worked their way into the old structure like four sturdy youths sent to help their elders bear the burden"
The Chancel is a magnificent piece of Norman architecture for a parish church. I find Norman round arches aesthetically pleasing with their crisply incised geometric and chevron patterns.
Exquisitely carved crenellations around some of the windows and crisp zigzag carving to the rib vaults in the Chancel
Fragments only of an early wall painting survive
An illustration shows how it would have looked. On the right sits Archbishop Thomas à Becket at dinner in his chamber. A dish and plate on the table with two attendants. On the left can be seen part of the interior of Canterbury Cathedral - the chapel of St. Benedict. A chalice and book with Greek letters A and Ω; alpha and omega - first and last. The Archbishop is shown dressed in cloak and hood with his hands extended in prayer. Two threatening swords can be seen: one held by Reginald FitzUrse and the other by Richard le Breton, the two knights who delivered the first blows to Becket. The wallpainting is showing the murder of Thomas à Becket and is a rare survivor


C10 graffiti can be seen at the base of the Chancel wall - it is the earliest known representation of a Viking ship in England - thought to be the work of a Scandinavian trader. The Vikings were a powerful force locally during that period. The shallow graffiti in the stone did not show up well so I have imposed a drawing on top of it.
A nice little group of carved faces showing traces of early paintwork are thought to have been used to support a statue
Two musicians supporting a stone shelve

From the exterior the lofty stone walls and steep pitched roof, once thatched, reveal the saxon building. I have seen an illustration showing that the Saxon tower would have been shorter, topped with a pyramidal style roof, also thatched. There was so much that I could not photograph in this church - the early Gothic octagon font showing pagan images on its eight faces amongst them a Green Man, a Pentagram, and an imagined grotesque fish, the Norman carved surround to the entrance door, and in fact a view of the whole outside of the church. The side to the left of this photo, the nave, was completely hidden by scaffolding and covered in wraps both inside and out whilst the major restoration work is carried out.

Visited end of May 2015

54 comments:

  1. Hello ,dear Rosemary .It has been a long time that I comment to you and I am apologized ..But there is no time for blogging and I missed it .I wish to be all your family well and to give me so interesting posts. I hope that I'll find time to catch you up again .Have a nice summer !

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    1. Dear Olympia how lovely to hear from you. I have been thinking about you and your family during recent months. Do hope that in time you will manage to return again.

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  2. The Fens always seems rather mysterious to me, Rosemary, a place I remember hearing about in Geography class. The white house looks beautiful, and would sit nicely in the landscape. Lincoln Cathedral is very majestic, a wonderful building. I love the grouping of the three windows, three different styles and periods of history, yet they harmonize very pleasingly in the church wall. The old wall painting is really interesting too - we visited Canterbury Cathedral to see the site of his murder, but they did not have such an illustration of the event!

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    1. Mysterious is a good word Patricia - although nowhere in Britain can be considered really remote, the fens do feel rather isolated with small village communities which are predominately agricultural.

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  3. I love detailed architecture like this. It is wonderful that the work of these artist/stonemasons/builders remains for us to see. l Oh, and lovely photos, as always.

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    1. It is amazing to think that the 'palmette' detail in the Saxon window has withstood well over a 1000 years of weather and yet the carving can still be clearly seen today.

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  4. Lincoln Cathedral is incredibly gorgeous. Thank you for the details, they are just fine photographed.
    Such I see very rarely. Three windows are beautiful.
    And I love the terracotta pan-tiled roofs, too.

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    1. Dear Orvokki - I appreciate your kind and very generous comment - thank you

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  5. That is a sweet well kept house. I just saw one on TV very similar... :)
    The church, well how lovely and wonderful to see the details..

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    1. I wonder where the house you saw was located Margaret?

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    2. I don't know Rosemary apart from it being in England. It was on an old Property TV Show...

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  6. St. Mary's has seen many changes over the years. Maybe it should be a lesson to us. That sometimes the willingness to change can insure our existence. Wonderful to hear it is being saved.

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    1. Over the centuries many hands have had an input to this church but it is pleasing that so much of the Saxon's work still remains.

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  7. Have never been to Lincolnshire, the church was extremely interesting, you do great photos.

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    1. Perhaps you should make an excursion over there sometime, you would love a visit to Lincoln Cathedral. Thank you for your kind comment about the photos

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  8. Very interesting, I enjoyed the tour, thanks!

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  9. Dear rosemary,

    I find the closeup of the chancel arches very modern; they even remind me a little of the work of Gaudi. I think it's great that the styles of architecture have merged, rather than having completely replaced each other.

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    1. Hello Mark - I agree that the chancel arches with the small nodules do have a contemporary appearance - It makes me think of the quote "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun"

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  10. Dear Rosemary, I am ashamed to say that I was not aware of this beautiful church in my home county of Lincs. What a gem and what a relief that it being restored. I particularly love the men and musicians, much more friendly than the Imp in the Cathedral! Thank you for such an interesting post on an area close to my heart.

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    1. Dear Jane - if you travel back over at some stage in the future then perhaps you could pay a visit. May be even the restoration work will have been completed.

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  11. I am sure Lincolnshire is worth exploring, but Mr N is not! However he greatly enjoyed a visit to the city of Lincoln at the end of last year and several friends have recently told me about the beauty and history of Louth. I think it is a forgotten and neglected county and will keep pestering for more visits - it's only just down the road from Yorkshire!

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    1. I am, personally, a mountain and valleys person, but there was something very appealing about driving through the landscape on a May morning - the hedgerows underpinned by clouds of cow parsley, wavy fields filled with rape, and big big blue skies.

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  12. A lovely post with beautiful photographs.
    Have a great weekend Rosemary.

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    1. Thanks Marijke - the sun is shinning and hope it is for you too

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  13. The exterior of the cathedral is very impressive.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. It is visible from many miles away

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  14. Hello dear Rosemary!
    What a beautiful church!
    The cathedral is very impressive indeed!
    And the architecture is superb!
    Wonderful pictures!I really enjoy your post!
    Dimi...

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    1. Thank you Dimi delighted that you enjoyed seeing the post and thank you

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  15. Ohh, I still have so many places to visit and one of them is Lincolnshire. The in- and exterior is great, the original Saxon arches are very impressive and the carved crenellations around the windows wonderful. I love the three carved faces and what to think about the musicions supporting a shelve....
    It was very interesting again.
    Regards, Janneke

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    1. Thank you very much Janneke - I too love the crenellations around the windows and was surprised at how crisp and defined it was considering how long ago the stonework was carved.

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  16. These pictures are stunning! Lovely : )

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    1. So pleased that you enjoyed seeing them Marica

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  17. What an interesting Church, especially the group of three windows from the different periods, that must be a very unusual feature indeed. xx

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    1. It's both a delightful architectural and history lesson all displayed on one wall

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  18. Dear Rosemary,

    As always, you open my eyes to new places, places and buildings I knew nothing about. Thank you so very much sweet Rosemary and Lincoln Cathedral sure is an impressing building. Every stone is filled with so much history. And your photos are absolutely amazing.

    Take care my friend and thank you for your sweet words on my blog. You're a star.♥

    Charlie
    xx

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    1. Dear Charlie - it is such a joy to see you back in the blogosphere - thank you for your kind words - Lincoln Cathedral is rather like a great ship sailing on the wolds and fens as it can be seen for miles around.

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  19. Rosemary the wildflower posted on my blog...is Phacelia sericea or commonly called Prurpke Fringe oe Purple Pinchusion.

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    1. Thank you Janey - I am now going right over to Google to read all about it.

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  20. Dear Rosemary, The colors are all so subdued and perfect. The stones, the roofs the carvings, all so beautiful. And so are your amazing photographs. Your artistic eye never fails you.

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    1. Dear Gina - we only had one day in the fens and wolds, it is a little bit off the beaten track, but whilst on the East side of the country we nipped across to visit H's niece. I feel we should return again sometime and explore more.

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  21. You do have to wonder at the skill of these medieval stonemasons don't you - a beautiful church. My ancient family are originally from various places in Lincolnshire I really should visit - eventually they all migrated to the cities to look for work

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    1. I can well imagine that a lot of people have migrated from the area over the years and that is probably the reason why Lincolnshire has remained pretty much untouched by modern life - it still does have a remote feeling to it even though in real terms it is not far from the A1 or M1. Do visit sometime, it is lovely when the hedgerows are full of cow parsley and the rolling wolds are yellow with rape.

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  22. Beautiful and amazing! I'm always overwhelmed when looking at those huge churches or cathedrals and how many hard and dangerous work must have gotten into it to have these built centuries ago. It is important to have them restored and good to see it happen. We went to Arras on a daytrip a few weeks ago and the cathedral there is being restored as well, on the outside. I was amazed to read the story of Arras, as it is so similar to the one of Ypres, destroyed after the first worldwar and all the main buildings rebuilt as they were before the war. There had even been the same discussion of rebuilding or not and leaving it as a reminder. Now, when even those rebuilt buildings already need restoration then the ones that haven't needed rebuilding but have been standing there for centuries must need restoration without any doubt I can imagine, inside and out, from time to time.

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    1. One of the major problems with our ancient religious buildings here, is just that, their antiquity. Wood rot, leaking roofs which infiltrate and damage the internal walls. It is amazing that so many are still standing and most are in pretty good condition - I wonder how our buildings today will look in a 1000years time?

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  23. What a historical and architectural gem, Rosemary. I'd love to visit when the restoration is complete.

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    1. It is interesting to ponder that this church was such an important place of pilgrimage and prayer in medieval days and now it is both remote and cut off seemingly on the way to nowhere.

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  24. Another vicarious adventure via your blog Rosemary! Your posts are so thorough and I love the close ups of the beautiful stonework and the history behind the buildings and artwork. Love the foxgloves too!

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    1. This was at the end of May and sadly the foxgloves have now departed until next year. I am pleased that you find the post of interest - thank you

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  25. I know the impressive Lincoln Cathedral well; but not St Mary's. We spent many years attending the Lincolnshire antiques trade show, and would sight see around the area. Next time we're there, I'll have to visit St Mary's. Hope the church will not be closed during restoration.

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    1. Only half of it was closed when we visited but obviously much of it was under wraps.

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