Wednesday, 25 January 2017

St. Mary & All Saints - The Interior

A general view to the east along the nave

Entering the porch of the church of St. Mary and All Saints in Chesterfield, the 14th century south door is seen to be suffering from the effects of rising damp, with the efflorescence both discolouring and degrading the yellow/brown sandstone from which it is built.

Efflorescence to the south door

Moving into the church itself, the area beneath the gallery – added by Sir George Gilbert Scott – is now a shop and the nave, dated by Pevsner to 1350-75 is entered from here. As seen in the north arcade of Wakefield Cathedral, the columns and capitals of the arcades are quatrefoil in section and uniform in style along its length.

Massive columns to the tower with multiple shafts

The oldest part of the structure is the east end, and the four massive Early English Gothic style columns supporting the tower, with multiple shafts, were dedicated in 1234 and the chancel arch – with the rood-beam crucifix of 1915 – dominate the east end. Subsequent building of the tower and the south transept continued into the 14th century and by 1360 the main part of the church was essentially complete.

An ogee arched recess with an effigy of a priest

As seen on the exterior, except for an ogee arched recess containing a mediaeval effigy of a priest, the masonry is quite austere and there are very few memorials where fine examples of decorative stone can be seen. Reflecting its High Church status, the Stations of the Cross and highly decorated and gilt altars and furnishings are strongly emphasised, especially in the various chapels that have been placed in the east end, near to the high altar.

 Th 9th Station of the Cross

The Lady Chapel, however, contains a magnificent collection of tombs of the Foljambe family and others, which are predominantly from the 16th century and carved in alabaster. Although a close inspection of these was not possible, their extremely dark brown colour suggests that they have been severely blackened by smoke over the years and have not been cleaned.

Alabaster monuments in the Lady Chapel

Apart from these very large monuments, the only decorative stone of note is the polished Carboniferous limestone that has been used for the Norman font, which contains large solitary rugose corals like those that I had previously seen on the rocky shoreline of Mullaghmore, during my first week at work with the Geological Survey of Ireland.

Solitary rugose corals in The Norman font

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