A container for holy water used in baptism. In most medieval
churches, it is a large, octagonal stone bowl on a stem
and base, carved with designs, and sited at the west end
of the nave. Many fonts have
been moved from their original position over the years,
which was often against a pillar in the north aisle, as at Kedington.
Most are of white stone, usually from Barnack in Cambridgeshire; but there are also fonts of grey Purbeck marble, as at Sweffling and Farnham, and rare fonts of black Tournai marble at Boulge and Ipswich St Peter. These, as with other early medieval fonts, are square rather than octagonal. Carvings on medieval Suffolk fonts are typically lions around the stem, often interspersed with wild men; angels under the bowl, and evangelistic symbols, alternating with other designs, on the eight panels of the bowl. Fonts of this type are found in about 200 Suffolk churches, perhaps the best examples being at Aldringham, Wissett and Waldringfield.
The most famous Suffolk fonts are those of the seven sacraments series. These show, in relief, the sacraments of the Catholic Church, with another design on the eighth panel.
This is often the Baptism of Christ, although the Crucifixion and the Martyrdom of St Andrew are also found in Suffolk. There are 10 of these fonts in Suffolk, at Badingham, Cratfield, Denston, Monk Soham, Westhall (with original colour), Melton, Laxfield, Woodbridge St Mary, Weston and Great Glemham. There are 3 other fonts which were probably part of the series, at Blythburgh, Southwold and Wenhaston; but they have been completely defaced.
Other spectacular designs include the lions on the black font at Ipswich St Peter, the joyful mysteries of the rosary at Ipswich St Matthew, the astonishingly beautiful hierarchy of the church at Sutton, and the pieta at Orford, where the font also retains its dedicatory inscription. Modern fonts, especially in Catholic churches, tend to be simple, and sited in the sanctuary. Having said this, the most dramatic font in Suffolk is probably that at Bungay St Edmund.