St Mary, Bungay
www.suffolkchurches.co.uk - a journey through the churches of Suffolk
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By lorries along Bungay High Street, St Mary stands soberly, over the Butter Cross, and the Fleece, and the castle beyond. Stately, plump spirelets rise from the turrets, bearing fleches on which an arrow and lightning spike lay crossed. A lattice of fretted arches is sustained gently beneath them in the mild morning air.
I photographed with relish the flintwork and flushwork, the ruined priory of God and the Holy Cross, the erect gargoyles, lions in spandrels, the punished water stoup which gave to my eye the faint hint of Catholic survivals. Signatures of all things I am here to read, angels and archangels, the nearing pinnacles, that shield of the passion. Flint black, weathered cope, stone buttress. Coloured signs. I closed my eyes to hear my shoes brushing ancient grass and grassy gravel. Am I walking into eternity through St Mary's churchyard?
Swish, swash, crush.
Walnut by plaster, W. B.'s dole cupboard of 1673. Q rat? Curate. Primitive bishops watch on, watch passing generations. I sauntered sadly from bright light, sauntering sadly, light no more. A classical font, a dusky battered plate, rises up like Holy Trinity. Beyond, walled, an old retainer.
HOW A GREAT SUFFOLK CHURCH IS BURNED DOWN
Fifteen years later, Bungay is destroyed by a fire that starts in a bakers shop. The church is gutted, and even the remarkable tower of 1470 needs rebuilding. Inside, virtually nothing medieval survives the fire, and St Mary will be variously refurnished by 18th century aesthetes (the font) 19th century sacramentalists (the altar, the glass, the eastwards position) until
WE SEE THE CHURCH FURNISHER AT WORK
the seven works of mercy in the eastern end of the north aisle are installed by Charles and Alexander Gibbs, and the panelling behind the altar is presented by local writer Henry Rider Haggard. Mortlock thinks it 17th century Flemish, and it is the best woodwork in the church because
the enthusiastic protestants of the parish took down the rood screen during the early years of Elizabeth, and were condemned for it, having to provide a replacement, of which nothing survives, since it was destroyed in the fire, presumably, and
in any case, the church is now redundant. It is the biggest and most urban redundant church in Suffolk, the local Anglicans feeling quite at home, thank you very much, in Holy Trinity across the road to the east, and now the Churches Conservation Trust watches over
THE GRANDEUR THAT WAS ROME
the grandeur that was once a major East Anglian parish church. Beccles, where the parish church was also destroyed by fire, and at Bungay there are one or more survivals from the church's Catholic heyday, for in the south aisle he found a surviving piscina, the saving remnant.
succession of images did Simon meanwhile perceive?
Of what similar
apparitions did Simon think?
What did Simon see on
raising his gaze to the height of a yard from the women
to the opposite wall?
Did he remain?
In what directions did
the narrator head?
In what posture?
he never saw a church like that before as be so big and
urban and yet so empty and yet they are so many of them
that empty nowadays except this one of course they've
actually given up the ghost in not that I'd like to say
for sure that Anglicans believe in ghosts or anything
like that nowadays not even the Holy one he'd say but
you'd know he was just having you on and pulling your leg
because he wants you to think he's a radical catholic and
whats all this with the writing like other writers
anyway, Jesus, you'd think the man couldn't put two words
together of his own.
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