Friday, March 23, 2007

St. Andrew's Church, Greensted

Near Ongar, Essex, lies the hamlet of Greensted. The parish has existed since Saxon times, and little has changed. It is also a place that has strong ties with St Edmund, once King of East Anglia.

Greensted Church is the oldest wooden church in Europe still standing.

It was once thought to be an old Saxon church, possibly around 850, but this apparently came from a faulty tree ring dating in 1960. In 1996 scientists at Sheffield University revised it to 1053 +10 -55 years, so that it could be at the very end of the Saxon period, or just possibly early Norman.

The nave is mostly original. The walls are of split oak tree trunks rounded on the outside and flat inside. They are "tongue and grooved" together.

The flint footings of the chancel wall and the pillar piscina inside the santuary are all that remain of any traditional Norman work

In 1013 an ancient chronicler records that the body of St Edmund was, for a night, deposited at Greensted Church. There are many tributes to St Edmund in the church itself.

The church, like many, has had additional work performed on it over the centuries.

Its walls portray some of the few frescoes to survive the iconoclasm of the English Reformation.

Painted over with a lime wash in the 1540s the frescoes were uncovered again in the 1870s. Sadly the Rector at the time had many of the frescoes over-painted to give them a Pre Raphaelite style and his use of the wrong type of plaster has effectively destroyed much of the original artwork.

Greensted is still a functioning church and holds services every week.


Early English Architecture
The Buildings of the Anglo-Saxons, 450 CE to 1066

Virtual Photography: St. Andrew's Church


Stave churches

church_heritage_in_essex (.doc file)