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Church of St Mary Magdalen Wiggenhall Norfolk
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There are a few beautiful churches in this area and St mary's Magdalen is no exception. The church sits along the edge of the Fens, and you can almost see Kings Lynn from the bridge that crosses the great ouse river that's just a few hundred yards away and crossing the bridge means you close to escaping the flat, lifeless Fens.
The first thing that stands out with this church are those tall south aisle Perpendicular windows which are dated to the mid 14th century and have a complex structure of 4-centred arches with hoods, cusped lights below embattled transom rising to cusped ogee arches with mouchette spandrels below second embattled transom, these are without a doubt the most elegant windows locally.
This elaborate church dates from the early 13th (lower tower base) with a 14th belfry (look for the carved stone figurehead that's high up on the south wall) with the nave and aisle early 15th centuries. The two-story south porch of brick
with ashlar dressings and diagonal buttresses is unusual. The church grounds are rather small so get those wide angle lenses ready if you plan to photograph this rustic old building.
The building itself is badly worn around the Northen side which gives it that Gothic horror film look. The textures give a real raw look and feel, and it makes you wonder how it is still standing.
I love to see ivy growing up the old stonework and yes it does damage, but it does look that part. Up closer you find this church has a few fun looking gargoyles and badly weathered window label stops. some are so worn that you can only make out they once had facial features and are not lost forever.
The upper windows called the clerestory with 5, 3-light with panel tracery under depressed arches each side date to the same time as the lower aisle windows. The cream colours of the mortar surrounding the clerestory do set the overall look of the church off.
Inside the church and it's Weeping Chancel
Down the centre aisle to the Chancel which is where the Choir and Clergy usually sit one can see that the Chancel leans to the left. There are several possible reasons for this.
1, If you stand at the back of the Church on Easter Sunday, one can see the sun rising, and it is in the centre of the east window behind the Communion Table or Alter. Most Churches in England were built so that the people when attending a service face the east which is where Jesus Christ was born and died. When the Chancel was built in the 1200s, there were no compasses and so assuming that the building of the Church and Chancel was started when the weather was good, the rising of the sun at Easter would have been about that time. If you are in Magdalene Church at sunrise at Easter, then this would be confirmed. It is possible that when the Church was extended about 150 years later that work was started later in the year and the sun moves from ’directly’ east during the year and so was built face between east-south-east and south-east.
2. Many Churches are made in the shape of a cross. It is said that when Jesus was crucified on a cross that his head lay to the right of his shoulder. This is the same side that this weeping chancel goes.
3, Many Churches and Cathedrals were built in the Medieval period and held many superstitious stories and legends and produced great works of structural art. Among these are the gargoyles that decorated their churches and important buildings. To the illiterate masses the grotesque forms, saints and dragons became the superstitious amulet from which regional myths and false notions were formed. They would guard the building and the people of the Village or Town from evil spirits and the devil. The story goes that the Devil loves square buildings and as a Church with a Weeping Chancel is not square it will not stay in the building.
Many thanks to Alan Sherfield for supplying the stories and the interesting chat we had at the church, you have a wonderful and unique building there Alan.
All Eyes On You
You know that feeling when you feel someone is watching you does go when you enter the nave and look towards its roof. Here you will find some beautiful 14th-15th century solid carved figures each different and holding different kinds of items. One thing I have learnt in the 5 years visiting churches, I have never seen a smiling figure; all are miserable for some odd reason. When I see carved roof angels and other figures I often say ohh no! because I know its going to be hard work holding 10.5lb of camera kit almost above my head. Often with extremely low shutter speeds, its often hold my breath time and either sit down or lob against the nearest pillar to help support my back, I don't believe in tripods whatsoever!. It does push me and the camera to the limits, but the pain is worth it to see these often fun looking figures.
George III Coat of Arms Board
Henry VIII issued the royal order to place the Arms in churches late in his reign. Henry VIII had broken away from Rome, and the Pope gave him the title of the Defender of the Faith ( Fid Def) which our Queen still hold the title today being the Head of the Church of England. If you look at our coins today, one can see F.D around the edge of the coin on the same side as the Queens Head. During the reign of Henry VIII the people still thought that the Pope was in charge, and so to remind people who were in charge,
Embattled transoms on the inside of their windows. In Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalene Church when the Church was extended in 1420 the aisle windows changed, and the benefactor was very wealthy and to show their wealth they had Embattled transoms built into the windows.
Well, another beautiful church that is part of a small cluster of churches in this area, with 4 in total and all within walking distance. You can park your car near to the great river ouse and walk to St Peters Ruins, then the half mile to St Germans church and on to St Mary's the virgin and back along the north river bank to this church. It will be around 4.5 miles for all these churches but a nice peaceful walk taking in the local countryside even if it is billiard table flat. I plan to take on this walk very soon if my leg issues let me. Written 05/05/2019.
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