Sunday, October 6, 2013

St. Mary's Church, Thirsk

St. Mary's Church in Thirsk may be most famous as the wedding place of James Herriot, of All Creatures Great and Small fame. He was married during WWII so no pictures were taken. The church dates from almost 500 years earlier, so it does have a rich history beyond celebrity weddings.

St. Mary's Church, Thirsk

The present church replaced a Norman church on the same site. Construction began in 1430 and it took about 50 years to complete. The style is Perpendicular Gothic and the church somehow managed to avoid alteration even in the Victorian period, when an architect named Street did restoration work but left things as he found them.

The entrance porch is quite large and several gashes can be seen in the stones inside. The docent there assured us the local stories of soldiers sharpening their arrows on the stone are a lot of bunkum. The church was a gathering place for all sorts of people back in the day and ladies would sharpen their knives on the stone as they chatted about local gossip. 500 years provides a lot of gossip!

Sharpening holes in the south porch

The porch also features a massive one-ton door. It was hung so cleverly that the man could move it with just one finger in spite of the weight.

Closing the door

Inside, the nave gives a nice, airy feel to the church and still has medieval carvings in the roof. This is where the "perpendicular" really comes out, with strong vertical lines and the wooden roof.

Nave with wooden ceiling

The baptismal font cover dates from the 15th century is 21 feet high. The font is Victorian, dating from the 1870s.

Baptismal font

The North Chapel has the church's organ in it.


Across from the organ is the lectern, one of the nice eagle-holding-bible types that are so common in England. Above the lectern is the Gilded Angel who was originally on top of the organ when it was in the back of the church.


Gilded Angel

The main altar has a gilded altar rail and a glorious window of Jesus and the four Evangelists above it.

Main altar

Stained glass above the altar

On the side are stone seats or sedilia that date back to the 1400s.


To the right of the sedilia is a copy of Caravaggio's Incredulity of St. Thomas, where Thomas puts his hand in Jesus's side after the Resurrection to be certain it really is Him. The painting resisted photographing. On the north aisle by the organ is a painting of St. Mary Magdalene in Tudor clothing. She is seen with a pot of ointment with which she anointed Jesus's feet.

Not so shy of the camera

By the back of the church is a glorious stained glass window known as the Bower Window. Sir Robert Bower was a highly decorated soldier and Chief Constable for Yorkshire from 1898 to 1929. The window was made in 1932.

Bower Window, also a bit camera shy

The South Chapel is dedicated to St. Anne, mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Typically churches like this would have a Lady Chapel dedicated to the Blessed Mother, but since the whole church is dedicated to her, St. Anne gets the honor. The altar is simple. This is where L decided to present a bouquet of flowers gathered from outside.

Chapel of St. Anne

Flowers for Our Lady or St. Anne?

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