CATHEDRALS & CHURCHES
Bath Abbey BA1 1LT -
The Church of St Peter and St Paul
Three churches have occupied this site: an Anglo-Saxon church in 757, and a Norman Cathedral in 1090, but later in 1137 much was destroyed by fire. Today’s building was founded in 1499 to replace the ruin damaged by fire. However, it had again to be rebuilt in 1611 following Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. In simple architectural terms it can be described as Perpendicular Gothic, and cruciform, in plan. The fan vaulting of the Nave is very fine and was designed by Robert and William Vertue, designers of Henry VII’s chapel in Westminster Abbey. It was never finished until Gilbert Scott completed the original designs in the 1860s. Note the Stairway to Heaven on the West Front: two ladders of carved angels are climbing towards Christ. Tower Tours.
Burford OX18 4SE -
Parish Church of St John the Baptist
One of the great Cotswold churches built in the C15 with proceeds earned by the local wool merchants. Hence, the term “Wool” church. It has a spacious interior more akin to a small cathedral. The porch and spire c.1450 are quite outstanding, as are the sculptured table tombs in the churchyard. Once inside don’t miss the intricate medieval stained glass and the monuments (painted figures).
Open daily 9-5 except during services. Cafe/tea room in Warwick New Hall with outside seating overlooks the dreamy River Windrush. BurfordJazz Club the 2nd Friday of every month. 01993 224783 burfordchurch.org burfordjazz.co.uk
Chipping Campden GL55 6JG -
Parish Church of St James
A fine old ‘Wool’ church of Norman origin restored in the C15 with a tall and elegant tower and a large Perpendicular nave. The ‘Brilliant’ gold stone is startling in late summer afternoons. C15 Cope and a unique pair of C15 Altar Hangings. Brasses of Woolstaplers. C15 Falcon Lecturn. Open daily. 01386 841927 stjameschurchcampden.co.uk
Cirencester GL7 2AG -
Parish Church of St John the Baptist
A fine mix of the C14 and C15 and the largest of the ‘Wool’ churches and the easiest to recognise with its three-storied fan-vaulted porch. The porch, formerly the Town Hall, overshadows the Market Place. C15 ‘wine glass’ pulpit, Ann Boleyn Cup and many fine brasses. Guided tours. Open M-Sa 9.30-5 01285 659317 cirenparish.co.uk
Fairford GL7 4AD -
Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin
The perfect, late C15 Perpendicular church that is world-famous for the outstanding 28 stained glass windows depicting scenes from Genesis to the Last Judgement. Of further interest, the carved misericords and recumbent brasses. Note the stone cat, a memorial to Tiddles who fell off the church roof. Open daily 10-5 (-4 in winter) for visits and guided tours.
01285 712611 stmaryschurchfairford.org.uk
Gloucester Cathedral GL1 2LX -
The Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Undivided Trinity
Without exception the most magnificent building in Gloucestershire and one of the finest of all English cathedrals. The building’s foundation stone was laid down by Abbot Serlo in 1089 on the site of a religious house founded by Osric, an Anglo-Saxon prince living here in about 678-9 AD. The Nave was completed in 1130. Its architecture is Romanesque with some early Perpendicular. The reconstruction of the Quire followed the burial in 1327 of Edward II. The East Window behind the altar had at its installation the largest display of medieval stained glass in the world and dates from 1350. The same year, fan vaulting was invented here at Gloucester and its intricate design covers the roof of the cloisters. Some would argue that Gloucester also saw the birth of Perpendicular architecture. In the south transept survives the oldest of all Perpendicular windows. Allow a couple of hours to wander around this spiritual hot house. There are tours of the crypt and tower. You will also be shown the location used for part of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. Evensong is a most magical experience not to be missed as is the Christmas Carol service. Cafe.
Open daily 7.30am to 6pm.
Malmesbury SN16 9BA -
The Abbey Church of St Peter & St Paul
Founded as a Benedictine Monastery in 676 AD by the saintly and scholarly Brother Aldhelm. King Athelstan was buried here in 941 AD. By the C11 the monastery held the second largest library in Europe and was a place of learning and pilgrimage. The Abbey was built and completed by 1180. The tall spire rose to 431 feet (131m) and was to be seen for miles around. However, in 1500 it collapsed destroying the Nave and the Transept. A few years later, in 1550, the West Tower also collapsed. What you see today is less than half of the original structure. Yet, it still remains a formidable church and a sight to behold. It was also a place of great inspiration for in 1010 the monk Eilmer of Malmesbury became the first (recorded) man to fly by jumping off the roof of the Tower and to fly his hang glider 200-yards before crashing and breaking both his legs - Leonardo da Vinci was to design a similar machine 350-years later!
Open daily East-Oct 10-5, Nov-East 10-4.
Northleach GL54 3HL -
Parish Church of St Peter & St Paul
C15. The South Porch has been described as the most lovely in all England: Tall pinnacles and statue filled niches. From afar, the church appears to hover above the town. Brasses of wealthy wool barons.
Guided tours: 01451 861132. northleach.org
Tewkesbury Abbey GL20 5RZ -
The Abbey Church of St Mary the Virgin
Founded in 1087 by the nobleman Robert Fitzhamon. However, the present building was started in 1102 to house Benedictine monks. The Norman abbey was consecrated in 1121. The Nave and roof finished in the C14 in the Decorated style. Much is Early English and Perpendicular although it is larger than many cathedrals and has according to Pevsner ‘the finest Romanesque Tower in England.' The Abbey opens its doors to three major music festivals: Musica Deo Sacra, the Three Choirs Festival and the Cheltenham Music Festival. You can park opposite and take a tour. Info on: 01684 850959. Shop and refectory.
Open daily: Su 7.30-6, M-Sa 8.30-5.30 (W/F to 7.30).
Winchcombe GL54 5LU -
Parish Church of St Peter
One of the great ‘Wool’ churches. It is of a C15 Perpendicular design but is strangely plain yet has an air of dignity. Not as elaborate as some of the other ‘Wool’ churches. For strangely, it has no chancel arch. The gargoyles are the one notable feature and a circumnavigation of the exterior is advised. The weathercock is the county’s finest. Gargoyles. The word gargoyle is a derivation from the French word gargouille meaning throat or pipe. The carved gargoyles were invented to channel water off, or away, from the roofs of buildings in Egypt and Ancient Greece. Their popularity became almost endemic in Europe during the Middle Ages. Fine examples are to be seen on Notre Dame in Paris, and on Rouen’s Cathedral in northern France. In Britain, the Cotswold churches, especially Winchcombe’s have some fine amusing examples.
The reason for these strange and often ugly designs is open to conjecture. Some believe they are caricatures of the clergy, or that they are there to ward off evil spirits. Perhaps, to protect the church’s building from the devil. Others believe they are transformed into ghosts and ghoulies at night! They were certainly a popular architectural ornament during dark days of the superstitious Middle Ages. winchcombeparish.org.uk