Friday, 29 October 2010

St. Mary and St. Ethelburga, Lyminge

     I had driven through Lyminge on countless occasions during our family perambulations through Kent, but had never stopped here to view what is one of the oldest village churches in the county.  I decided to redress the situation on a bitterly cold March morning, but any preoccupation with the weather was soon forgotten when confronted by this prestigious 'old pile', sitting on its elevated plateau, a short distance from the village.  My initial expectation that this building might prove to be something special was immediately proved well-founded as I made my way beneath a flying buttress which, amusingly, straddled the churchyard path.  It is of medieval origin, and supports the south-east corner of the chancel and is, to date, the only example I have seen of such an arrangement.

     It was here that Ethelburga, daughter of King Ethelbert and wife of Edwin of Northumberland, the founder of York, built her abbey as a mark of her widowhood in 633 AD - just two-hundred-and-fifty-years after the retreat of the Romans.  Part of the original foundations are still visible at ground level beside the south porch as, too, is the tomb of Ethelburga.  Marked by a stone tablet in a shallow recess, the tomb was originally in the north part of the abbey, but today's building stands slightly north of this so, consequently, the present south walls are situated where the north walls once stood.  The present building - with the exception of the north aisle and sturdy west tower added in the 16th century - is Saxon in origin, and was built by Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 965 AD.  The nave and square-ended chancel are large by Saxon standards, and contain four windows with Roman tiles for voussoirs (wedge-shaped stone in an arch or arch-shaped window).  Its size is probably explained by the fact that Lyminge was the centre of Limowart lathe - one of seven administrative centres of Saxon rule in Kent - and was no doubt built to reflect its importance.  It is a fine church that carries its age well.

     I wasn't surprised to find the church locked, as one understands the dilemma facing the Church in our increasingly lawless society, but I was disappointed at the lack of information in the porch as to where the key might be obtained.  When one has travelled a considerable distance to pay their respects to such an eminent monument to Christianity, it tends to make one feel that their interest is not welcome.  However, having, as I do, strong feelings for this church and not wishing to appear boorish, I refuse to end this account on a churlish note.

     Apart from being extremely cold, the day was overcast, so I used a strong warm-up filter to boost the colour; and the branches of the tree to help fill a rather large area of blank sky.  Under the circumstances I was satisfied with the result and felt, the key apart, that I had achieved what I went for.

1 comment:

  1. what a pitty not to get into it, but you took it with humour, that's good!