Visiting Churches – Buildings, Interiors and Environment

shipley St Paul's

What do you ‘look for’ and ‘look at’ when visiting a church for the first time or the umpteenth time come to that?
This is just a quick list of some of the items you may want to consider on your next visit.

The Environment

  • What and where is the village, town or parish and how has it developed alongside the Church.
  • What is the setting and positioning of the church, its elevation and relationship to other buildings and physical features.
  • What spaces are around the church and why are they there?
  • What is distinguished about the churchyard, crosses, lychgates and statuary.
  • What materials have been used in the construction and also what has no been used to put the building into context with the surroundings.

The Building and Architecture

  • Have a good look around the building in general and then in some detail (pick a fine sunny day for this and you will be totally absorbed and potentially sun tanned).
  • Towers if present may have battlements or be a later addition, they may not be built in the usual western end of the church.
  • Is there a spire and how are high parts accessed?
  • Look at the nave and chancel to see if they are under one continuous roof.
  • How many doorways are present, have any been blocked up are the fittings medieval and if the main door is not in the south wonder why.
  • Are there any low windows or unusual high ones like Otley.
  • Porches are common on Anglo Saxon churches but Normans were left out in the cold. Some churches have external stone benches.

Interior

  • Buy, borrow or read any guidebook or information panels.
  • Windows and roofs can be very informative. The east window over the chancel and altar generally provide the majority of the light. The clerestory is an upper row of extra windows.
  • Stained glass often tells a story, but what of the story of the funding and installation.
  • The font is traditionally placed near the entrance to indicate it is easy to enter the church through baptism.  Font covers or lids may be present or at least the former hinge locations. Puritains were not against smashing the font cover or even the font itself.
  • The altar will not escape attention but the nave, pulpit, lectern and furnishings are often fascinating.
  • Memorials, effigies, wall tablets, inscriptions, curiosities and miscellaneous items often tell about the life of the church through the decades and centuries.

One thought on “Visiting Churches – Buildings, Interiors and Environment”

Comments are closed.