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Christchurch Priory

(East Dorset)




West End





Aerial view from the south (sometime monastery side) - misericord guide book cover.


Christchurch Priory website




The transept lookalike entry portal in the north west corner of the church.  This would have been purpose built for the parish church to keep your ordinary people in your ordinary people's Nave, and reserve the south side entries to the Canons' Quire from the monastery for just the Canons (numbering around 18)








"The Plumber"






Christchurch Priory Church Nave c1150, clerestory c1290 - a Grand Church with a Grand Vista, though sadly the ersatz vaulting from 1819 hides a magnificent decorated timber beamed roof.




Blind arcades on the south wall of the nave, looking east.




North nave (detail below)




Spandrelman with duck-billed angel capital supporters.




The Retable / Rederos behind the main Altar, featuring inter alia the Nativity and Magi (and earlier the whole Jesse cast).  On the left is the Chantry Chapel of Margaret, Countess of Salisbury (see below), which Paradox got severely told off by a red faced bearded gent for entering - but by then the photos were safely taken.






The east end Lady Chapel - c1400 (at which time the old Norman Quire was replaced with the present Great Quire).




North quire aisle, looking west.  Christchurch Priory Church model and the Salisbury Chantry.  The old Priory Church is bigger than most cathedrals and has a wonderful unified feel despite its disjointed appearance from the outside.




The fan vaulted ceiling of the Chantry Chapel built for (but never occupied by) Margaret, Countess of Salisbury - the Last Plantagenet.  She was executed, aged 67, in the Tower of London on the 27 May 1541, in one of the most paranoid acts of the paranoid Henry VIII, and buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower.  The cause of Henry's antagonism was her son, Reginald Cardinal Pole (1500 - 1558 (58)), who had opposed "the divorce" but whom Henry could not get his hands on directly, being as how he had gone overseas to help run the Council of Trent


Pole later returned to England after Henry was safely dead and buried (and Reggie himself had narrowly missed out on being elected Pope in 1550), and became the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury - helping Queen Mary burn lots of Protestants.  In the end he and Mary died on the same day - 17 November 1558 - which was lucky for him as by this time the next Queen (Elizabeth), his church (the next Archbishop Englishman Matthew Parker described him as 'inglese italianato, diavolo incarnato’ and probably several other things as well), most of England and the Pope were all gunning for him.  There is a portrait of him (probably contemporary), with a enormous beard and painted by Sebastiano del Piombo, in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, and lots of images in the UK National Portrait Gallery of which only one by an unknown artist may be contemporary. 


Margaret was later recognized as a martyr by the Roman Catholic Church, and was beatified in 1886, but her body never got to enjoy her chantry.  Cardinal Reggie's un-noteworthy tomb is at the far eastern end of Canterbury Cathedral.




The entry to the Draper Chantry - John Draper was the last prior of the Augustinian monastery - after its dissolution by Henry VIII, Draper was given a pension of £133 6s 8d and a grange to live in.    The church pictured over the entry represents a much earlier Christchurch, before the raising of the roof level to accommodate a clerestory (c1290) and the building of the great quire and lady chapel built c1400.  The central tower of the church collapsed during a storm in 1420, and was replaced by the current west tower in 1480. 


Interestingly the government of Henry VIII was very punctilious in honouring the hundreds of pension obligations they had to the Abbots, Priors and Monks they had evicted.




The King - said to be Richard III




Goose Whacker




Devil Bat













Ranulf Flambard's new church was commenced in 1094 and completed in 1150.  It replaced a 400 year old Saxon foundation.  Flambard was a powerful member of the governments of William the Conqueror and his successor William Rufus, and he loved building in stone - including the first stone bridge over the River Thames and Westminster Hall.  He was appointed Bishop of Durham in 1099, but he would not have had much time to influence the already underway building of  Durham's new Cathedral (destined to become the first great stone vaulted European Cathedral) as King William Rufus died in 1100 and his successor Henry I locked Ranulf up and then exported him back to Normandy - where he helped Henry's older brother Duke Robert Curthose unsuccessfully plot to overthrow him, Robert being an all-round loser.


The Augustinian Priory of Christchurch flourished through another four centuries until the time of ......


......... Tudor King Henry VIII (1491-1509-1547 (56)) - the great closer of monasteries and looter of shrines and chanteries.  Before taking off in 1539 to a well funded retirement, the last Prior of Christchurch (John Draper) organized for the church to be gifted in perpetuity to the church wardens and parishioners as a parish church.  Nearly five centuries later the great friendly church is still lovingly cared for and is a real joy to visit and wander around.


Christchurch is a member of the Greater English Churches Group




The Shelly Memorial at the west end of the church.  And, no, it's not a Bernini job.



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