|Saint Mary's Parish Church
Vicar: Rev'd Dr. Paul M. Collins
Wardens: S Quilty and M Bushnell
A BRIEF TOUR
The parish church stands on the site of the wooden church
built by St. Aidan in 635 AD, which during the Anglo-Saxon period
was replaced by a small stone church. The Benedictine monks of
Durham, who in the 12th century began to build the second
monastery, decided this should be the parish church and employed
and paid a chaplain to care for the villagers.
The building was enlarged twice: once in the 12th century by
a Romanesque north arcade and a Norman apse (now gone) and an early English south arcade and
chancel in the 13th century. Parts of the original Saxon church survive in the wall containing the
chancel arch. The tower and the porch were added later.
At the Reformation the church became Anglican and, as the
centuries went by, fell into great disrepair. A thorough
restoration in 1860 restored it to a clean, usable state, with
oak furnishings in the chancel and pine in the nave. The
restorers covered the interior of the nave walls with plaster.
Most of this has been removed in the last 40 years.
There has been no further alteration to the structure of the
church except that the porch on the north side, which served as a
mortuary, was opened into the church. For many years the enclosed space served as
the church vestry up until the recent phase of church restoration, repair and change
during which a stone ramp has been built inside the church, along the south
and west walls, to accommodate wheel-chair users.
The church is built in an attractive multi-coloured
sandstone: cream, pink and grey. The visitor, standing at the
centre back, will notice the difference in shape between the
arcades on the left and the right, the 'Saxon door' in the wall
high above the chancel arch, and the very long chancel leading to
the high altar. There were chapels on each side: on the north
side (the 'fishermen's aisle') the altar is dedicated to St.
Peter, the window above shows the miraculous catch of fish, and a
small coracle and a lobster-pot emphasise the traditional Island
dependence on fishing. On the south side the chapel of St.
Margaret of Scotland now has the organ instead of an altar.
As the visitor looks to the east all the stained glass
windows are from the 19th century, including the brilliant
Ascension window over the high altar. The west wall has two 20th
century windows depicting St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert. Handmade
carpets, based on designs in the Lindisfarne Gospels, lie in
front of the two altars. A replica of St. Cuthbert's coffin is
along the north wall; hatchments from three local families have been restored
and are mounted in the chancel; the work of replacing the hassocks by ones of a
single design is ongoing.
In the south aisle stands the imposing statue known as The Journey, depicting
the monks of Lindisfarne carrying St.Cuthbert's body on the first stage of its journey to Durham
and is probably the first thing to catch the visitor's eye. The sculpture is an acclaimed work
of Dr Fenwick Lawson made up of 35 piece of elmwood, carved principally with a chain-saw. This
has been loaned to St Mary's Church and a bronze copy has been placed in the Millennium Square
in Durham, thus marking the start and finishing places of the journey of St Cuthbert's coffin
between 698 and c920.
The Churchyard at St Mary's is particularly attractive and beautifully kept by
the Island folk. It is sacred ground and is not intended for picnics or as a playground.
Visitors are asked not to walk close to the graves, several of which are unmarked.
The statue of St Aidan is by Kathleen Parbury who is herself buried here. Access to
the adjoining Priory, for which you need to purchase a ticket at the English Heritage
Museum, is available through our Churchyard. The Monastic strip - on the west side of
the Churchyard - is cared for by volunteers and its format is explained in a short
leaflet available from the church.
|When browsing around our churchyard and particularly if you have visited the
Farne Islands and heard of our local heroine, Grace Darling, the grave of 'Field Flowers'
may well be of interest to you.|
The parish would like to emphasise that this is a living,
working church. We have three services every day throughout the
year, extras for groups of pilgrims etc as required, and
appropriate services to meet the needs of the parish. All
visitors are welcome at the services.
Before you leave, please take a moment to reflect in God's house;
light a candle beside the icon or fill in a prayer request at the prayer board
and give a minute or two to say your own prayer.