monks, working painstakingly on wooden scaffolding, stretching up into the barrel-vaulted ceiling, brushes in hand, sometime around the year 1130. I think too of the congregation — illiterate peasants for whom the Latin church service would have been little more than gobbledygook, and of how important the images would have been in teaching them the Christian story.
It’s easy to think about this because there’s no one around to disturb me. St. Mary’s Church is truly off the beaten path. I sit on one of the plain, wooden pews, gaze at the walls, and soak in the delicious, heavy silence.
You don’t have to be religious to be enthralled by old churches. I’m not. What I love is their role as the keepers of history, there in their stones, carvings and paintings. A thousand years of clues, stretching back to the Normans and before.
And that reminds me. As well as its paintings, St. Mary’s has the oldest timwritten ber roof, and one of the oldest wooden doors still in use, in the country.
Not bad for a small church, hidden away among hedges, on the edge of England.
Jesus, six Apostles and angels are painted on the roof of the chancel of St Mary’s Church. The church’s wall paintings were whitewashed during religious turmoil under Henry VIII and were rediscovered hundreds of years later.
A depiction of the Wheel of Life, surrounded by representations of the Ten Ages of Man. Experts believe the earliest of the church’s paintings date from around 1130 AD.