Thursday, 10 September 2015

Cathedral of the Marshes..Holy Trinity, Blythburgh

There is so much to write about this wonderful church , known as *The Cathedral of the Marshes*   It is no ordinary country church as it’s so large and light. It typifies the open landscape and coastline that it represents, and has excellent acoustics which is demonstrated when musicians and singers perform here.
 This is a church brought back to life from it’s ruinous state. 
The church of Holy Trinity was built in 1412 for the high class rituals of the Catholic church. Originally everything inside of the church would have been brightly painted – today we would have called it garish with  it’s boldness... After the dissolution of the nearby monastery in 1538 the church was beset by mounting problems
… In 1577 during a great storm lightning struck the church spire which sent it crashing down through the roof damaging the font. (There’s a superstition that the scorch marks on the Great North Door were made by the Devil’s claws during this storm)
…In 1644 the church was victim to the Puritan leanings of that time and was stripped of most of it’s fine medieval trappings, even the brass memorial plaques belonging to the tomb slabs in the floor of the Nave were taken up and disposed of.
Because of the extreme poverty of the rural community,  and their attendance at the small primitive Methodist chapel, the Church was left to decline… It wasn’t until 1881 that any restoration of Holy Trinity church began to take shape, and it was three years before they were able to open the church to a congregation. 

On approaching the church there are three things of note on the outer wall (a) a Lombardic inscription set into the wall (b) what looks like a medieval font which stands by the porch door and was used as a stoup for holy water, and (c) a modern statuette by Nicholas Mynheer of the Holy Trinity placed in  the niche over the porch door.

…The Southern side of the church is more resplendent than the Northern side, as it displays  stone grotesques and lion’s heads for all to see.

It is on entering the church itself that one can immediately see what a majestic building this must have originally been. It is spacious with a high ceiling, and has stone columns with carved heads on the corbels dividing the nave from the side aisles..

 There are two rows of windows along each 
side of the church and light shines in through the plain glass windows of the clerestry displaying  the ceiling angels in their (albeit now faded) glory.

…The pew ends seem older than the pews themselves and have  carvings on them depicting the seven deadly sins and the four seasons..

Very little remains of the medieval stained glass from the lower storey of windows in the church, these have mostly been replaced by plain glass.

Just inside the porch door and to the left there is a flight of circular stone steps leading to the Priest’s Room, which is now used for prayer and contemplation.

…Facing the porch door is the 15thcentury octagonal font- originally this would have had lovely carving on it, but this was stripped away in the 1540’s
The font stands at the west end of the church looking down the long nave toward the rood screen, chancel and altar…

.Just in front of the rood screen stands the beautifully carved 17th century pulpit.

To the left of the chancel and altar is the chantry chapel dedicated to John Hopton who was Lord of the manor in 1478, his elaborate tomb stands between the chantry chapel  and the chancel

 Inside the chancel are the wonderfully old choir pews with their carvings of the Apostles and Saints

There are two niches in the stone walls – the one near the organ contains one of the few remaining working
*Jack’o the Clock* figures dating from 1682…The other niche holds a modern carving of Virgin and Child by Peter Eugene Bell.

To the left of the chantry chapel by the small North door are some spiral steps which used to lead up to the upper rood screen
…there’s also an alms box dating from 1473.
 Tethering rings are set into the pillars by the Great North door. One assumes these were for congregations to tether their waiting horses while they were attending service.

It’s good to see restoration work on Holy Trinity continuing…It would be almost unthinkable  to lose one of our most loveliest of churches . 
With the grace of God it will still be standing for many more years, for our descendants to visit and worship.

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