Wednesday, 28 December 2011
The Oldest Church In Cambridge
It wasn't really fair of me to say that The Round Church was the second oldest church in the city without telling you about the oldest one. So lets put that to rights.
St Bene't's (not a typing error but a contraction of St Benedict's) stands in Bene't Street and in spite of its great age and central position is largely ignored by visitors to the city. One glance at the tower will tell you that this is an unusual structure and that it must be old; it doesn't really look like any other church towers. The detail is quite crude and the stonework on the corners is unusual. According to the experts it shows that the builders knew the kind of work which was done on the continent but that knowledge was rather superficial. And how long ago was it built? Well, King Canute was on the throne, the Normans were still in Normandy, so probably about 1020 AD. Which means that in eight years time.....
Just inside the gate is this old pump which used to supply drinking water to the parishioners before Cambridge had a water company.
The door swings open on these mighty hinges - you can't buy those in the local DIY store.
Inside there are more Saxon survivals, chiefly this magnificent arch which again shows the "long-and-short" stonework which we saw on the corners of the tower. The arch itself doesn't really match the columns which support it, again evidence of the lack of experience of the builders. Still, it's stood for nearly a thousand years!
The main body of the church has been rebuilt but even so the arcading dates back to the 13th century. The outer walls of the church date from a Victorian enlargement.
The stained glass, which is also 19th century, looks wonderful with the late afternoon sun streaming through.
There's a fine chest dating from the Medieval period.....
....and a modern sculpture, quite small but very powerful, by Enzo Plazzotta. But lets go outside and have another look at the Saxon tower.
Those small round holes are thought to be to encourage owls to nest, and presumably to control the mice in the area.