Sunday, October 15, 2006

St. Mary's Church, Stoke D'Abernon

I visited St. Mary's Church in Stoke D'Abernon this afternoon and along with one other visitor I was treated to a fabulous, unexpected tour by one of the church guides. What a gem, this church. It is one of England's oldest surviving churches which has been in use since Saxon times, and based on constuction materials it is thought to date to the second half of the 7th century. One side of the facade shows Roman bricks taken from a ruin adjacent to the church yard--a Roman bath on the banks of the Mole river.

Additions were made in the 12th, 13th and 15th centuries as well as in Victorian times, and the church retains elements of all of these periods. The photo above shows part of a Norman arch (12 century) and the rich, intricate woodwork of the ceiling, which I think is Tudor.

The church is most well known for its brasses, such as this one of Sir John D'Abernon dating from 1277, the oldest of its kind in Britain (bottom figure). He is buried under this section of the church. The pictures don't do it justice--the detail of the chain mail, his lance and enameled shield (bearing the D'Abernon coat of arms) is really beautiful. (The church was dark so a lot of my photos are a little blurry.)

Caretakers uncovered a partial mural on one wall that dates from the 13th century and shows the "Adoration of the Lamb." Amazing:

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