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Chalgrove Church Chalgrove St Mary Church of St Mary St Mary's Church, Chalgrove
Church Lane Chalgrove
Chalgrove  locality
Oxfordshire  county
England  country
United Kingdom  country
Europe  continent
Main date(s)
13th-14th C
51.664204° N, 1.080260° W
OS Grid Reference
SU 63716 96549
Opening hours
Apr-Sep: Wed 10:30-2, Sat 2-4pm

At other times, key available from the newsagents in High Street or contact a churchwarden
See contact page on official website

Historical Timeline of the Church of St Mary

Description of the Church of St Mary

Chalgrove Church consists of a nave, side aisles, chancel, and large west tower. The exterior is mostly Decorated Gothic (c.1290-1350) and Perpendicular Gothic (c.1335-1530) in style.

The nave is Transitional (c.1175-1200) and the south arcade is one of the oldest features in the church. It has pointed arches and round piers with square bases and corner spurs. The north arcade is closer to the Early English style, with round piers and stiff-leaf capitals.

The chancel is entirely Decorated Gothic (c.1290-1350) and has several interesting features besides the famous murals. The south wall has a fine piscina and sedilia under four cusped ogee arches and a little priest's door. Under the rug in the chancel aisle are two notable brasses: Drugo Barantyn (d.1437) and two wives; and Reginald Barantyn (d.1441).

The lower part of the chancel walls have been stripped to bare stone to protect the murals, the great glory of the church, from rising damp. The murals form a comprehensive series telling the story of Christian salvation, with special emphasis on the Virgin Mary, the church's patron.

The series begins at the west end of the north wall and is read from left to right around the chancel. The north wall centers on the Life of Christ and the south on the Life of the Virgin. The former is in significantly worse condition due to receiving more sunlight.

The first mural is a Tree of Jesse, which quickly sums up the theme of Old Testament prophecy pointing to Christ. At the bottom was the Latin text (which has not survived) of Isaiah 11:1: Et egredietur virga radice Jesse et flos de radice ejus ascendit, "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots."

Above this inscription is a badly faded King David playing his harp, framed by a vine and flanked by praying figures. The vine frame directly above David is occupied by the Virgin holding the infant Christ. She is a beautiful figure, drawn by a highly skilled hand. She stands in a graceful S-shape and is clothed in a blue mantle with draped folds.

The window splays immediately right of the Tree of Jesse have portraits of the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin, representing the Annunciation. The rest of the north wall is devoted to the birth and passion of Christ, culminating in the Resurrection and Ascension depicted on the north side of the east wall.

The south wall depicts mostly apocryphal scenes from the life of Mary, including her death and assumption into heaven, with her coronation as Queen of Heaven on the south side of the east wall. At the west end of the south wall is the resurrection of the dead and the Day of Judgement, bringing the series to an end.

The aisle windows are mostly Perpendicular. Near the east end of the north aisle are two stained glass heads of angels (one of which is rather cross-eyed) from the early 15th century. The octagonal font is c.1660, carved with rose, thistle and fleur-de-lis.

Holly Hayes
October 9, 2011

Listed Building Description

CHALGROVE SU6396 11/32 Church of St. Mary 18/07/63


Church. Early C13, early C14 chancel: C15 and C18 alterations. Coursed limestone rubble with ashlar dressings; late C19 and C20 gabled tile roof. Chancel, aisled nave, west tower. Chancel has offset buttresses, 3-light Decorated east window and 2-light windows in 2-bay side walls: south wall also has central pointed moulded priest's door, and C16 chamfered light. 3-bay north aisle has late C15 three-light windows, early C14 two-light window in west end and C13 pointed moulded doorway. South aisle, crenellated in late C15, has similar early C14 window in east end, similar late C15 windows and late C15 porch with 4-light wood-mullioned window over 4-centred moulded doorway: early C14 pointed moulded south doorway. 3-stage tower (spire collapsed 1727) has early C13 pointed chamfered doorway to C18 studded door, early C13 two-light window, second-stage C18 round window, and C13 third- stage 2-light Y-tracery windows: C18 crenellated parapet with pinnacles. Interior: chancel has Decorated piscina and sedilia, studded priest's door with early C14 wrought-iron hinges; and plain aumbry and recesses. Complete sequences of fine early C14 wall paintings depict Last Judgement and Life of the Virgin to south, Tree of Jesse and the Life of Christ to north, and, on the east wall, the Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin and the Ascension, Resurrection and Descent into Hell; splays of windows depict figures of the Saints. Brasses to Reginald Barantyn, d.1441, and Hugh Barantyn with wives Joan (d.1446) and Lady Beatrice. Baroque memorial to Rev. Francis Markham, d.1668, has garlanded cartouche with angels supporting coat of arms; early C19 memorial tablet to wife of Rev. John Lewis from Ireland. Late C17 communion rail of barley-sugar balusters at chancel entry. Early C14 chancel arch. Nave has early C13 four-bay south arcade of small pointed arch and roll-moulded Transitional arches on circular piers with water-leaf capitals: early C13 three-bay north arcade has chamfered Transitional arches on circular piers with moulded and foliate capitals. C18 memorial tablet ta Adeane family above Jacobean pulpit. Font of c.1660-70 set on barley-sugar stem. Painted memorial mural to Robert Quatremaine, d.1697. Four-bay arch-braced collar-truss roof with curved windbraces. South aisle has C13 piscina. North aisle has squint to chancel, early C14 wall painting north of east window, slate memorial tablet to Benedict Winchcombe, d. 1623, depicting his family, and 2 boards commemorating local charities. Parish chest dated TK 1674 FG next to north door. Stained glass; 2 similar quarries of angel 5 heads at head of east-bay window of north aisle. The early C14 paintings in the chancel are amoung the best preserved in the country. (Buildings of England: Oxfordshire, pp.525-6; E.T.Long, Medieval Wall Paintings in Oxfordshire Churches, Oxonensia, Vol. XXXVII, 1972, pp.86-108; E.W. Tristram, English Medieval Wall Paintings (The Fourteenth Century) 1954, pp.153-5; National Monuments Record).

Listing NGR: SU6371496558

Source: The National Heritage List for England. Reprinted under license.

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