Cirencester Parish Church is the largest parish church in the county of Gloucestershire. It was probably built with wool money and monastery money as a former Augustinian monastery existed on the site.
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Remnants of two earlier churches on the site are found in the late Norman doorway of the Lady Chapel (added 1235-50) and early 13th century chancel, however the main building was constructed in the 15-16th centuries in the current style of the day--medieval. The south porch has three storeys and was added c1490. It was used by the abbey for business not pertaining to the abbey itself.
The church served as a town hall for a while after the abbey was dissolved. The church measures 180 feet long externally and 104 feet wide. The nave is 57 feet high.
In 1400 a 162 foot high tower was added to the church as thanks for the townís support of the House of Lancaster in the War of the Roses. Bells were added at the same time, but in 1722 additional ones brought the number to 12. In the mid 15th century the Trinity Chapel was added.
Abbeys and monasteries were dissolved by King Henry VIII between 1539-40, thus much of the church furnishings were destroyed in the ensuing years. The church pulpit with its open stonework survived almost intact.
The church nave was redone in the Perpendicular style between 1515-30. Because of their contribution of funds to the rebuilding, the wool merchants had their crests put on the pillars. The windows in the north and south walls and the clerestory windows are clear glass. Most of the medieval glass has not survived the ravages of time.
In the late 1600s galleries were added to provide more seating. Urgent structural repair was needed by 1865 at which time the galleries and high box pews were taken out (new oak ones replaced them), the pillars in the nave were reinforced, and the crypt was sealed. The roofs and fabric were restored in 1965-87.
Displayed in the church nave is the Boleyn cup of silver gilt. Anne Boleyn received it as a gift in 1535, and Queen Elizabeth I passed it on to her physician, Richard Master, who gave it to the church.
The church chancel was constructed in 1115 but was widened in 1180 and lengthened in 1240. In 1300 the east window was enlarged; the seven light window over the arch is a common element in Cotswold wool churches. St Catherineís Chapel roof was raised and fan vaulting added. The north wall of the chapel has a mural of St Christopher and reredos from Oberammergau. In the Lady Chapel is the large tomb of an early 17th century lawyer, Humphrey Bridges, and that of his wife and 11 children.
The Trinity Chapel has a collection of brasses from the church tombs. On the wall in a niche is a carved figure of Christ. St Edmundís Chantry Chapel (also called the Garstang Chapel) has much carving. In it is a carved marriage chest dating from 1539. Next to this chapel is another, St John the Baptist, used as a vestry. In it is a tomb of a former sheriff of London who served under Charles I.
Cirencester Parish Church
Market Place, Cirencester, Gloucestershire
Open: daily, times not given on website; services held, times on website; tower open for tours--check website for details
Tel. 0 1285 659 317
Book stall; souvenir shop; church tours given by guides
Web: Cirencester Parish Church
The following photos are from Geograph Britain and Ireland:
Photo of church exterior courtesy Nick Robinson
Photos of nave and north aisle courtesy Lambert
Other photos © by Barbara Ballard