Enter the Mystery

Dummy Doors

You won’t get far if you try to enter St Mary’s through these two central doors because they’re not doors at all! They back on to an internal apse which was redecorated in the late 1800s.

The interior of the Church originally looked like this when it was built in 1843, and a biography of Fr Jones written after his death in 1906 refers to it as the time as being “very unsightly from an architectural point of view, and its arrangements internally make it quite unfit for church worship; it was arranged as for a preaching-house.”

St Mary’s Church as it looked when built in 1843

When he arrived at St Mary’s in 1872, Fr Jones soon set to work. In 1879, the large central three decker pulpit was reduced in size and moved to the side, and a new, large High Altar installed.  Four years later work began on the sanctuary.

The prevailing colour of the dome of the apse is blue in which graceful angels hold the instruments of Christ’s Passion: nails, spear, thorns.

Below the angels are five medallions in the spaces where windows once gave borrowed light from the east windows.  Within these medallions are Old Testament scenes which help explore the meaning of the Eucharist.

Abel offers up a lamb, Melchizedek brings forth bread and wine, Abraham about to slay his son, the Manna in the desert, and the Paschal Lamb.

In place of the taller windows are niches in which are huddled life-size figures of the Twelve Apostles, begun in 1884.

Above the altar is the painted reredos by Philip Westlake illustrating the  Adoration of the Shepherds.

Detail of the Reredos illustrating the Adoration of the Shepherds

On the undecorated rear of the apse is an array of graffiti from over two centuries, beginning with the Sculptor of the Twelve Apostles. Not many get to see this view!


Longer Read: If you have time to linger and want to delve deeper check out a post inspired by the poverty of the shepherds in the reredos, and find out more about the faith and friendships, the mission and ministry of Fr Griffith Arthur Jones who was Vicar of St Mary’s from 1872: Articles of Faith: A ‘Poor’ Reredos

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