A very warm welcome to the website of St Mary Magdalene, Geddington
I am so pleased that you have decided to view our Church Near You page.
At St Mary Magdalene, Geddington we offer a wide-range of services and social events every week to accommodate all ages and preferences, so keep an eye on updates to find out more.
We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, gay, confused, filthy rich, comfortable, or dirt poor.
We extend a special welcome to wailing new-borns and excited toddlers.
We welcome you if you can sing like Pavarotti or can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re ‘just browsing,’ just woke up or just got out of prison. We don’t care if you’re more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury, or haven’t been in church since Christmas ten years ago.
We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome keep-fit mums, football dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps.
We offer a welcome to those who think the earth is flat, ‘work too hard,’ don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.
We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, who got religion shoved down their throat as kids, or whose parents wouldn’t allow them to talk about God at all. We welcome those who have got lost on their walk and just wandered in, tourists, seekers, doubters, bleeding hearts… and you!
Our building is one of the most mysterious, inspirational and intriguing of its kind. It has a long history, dating from at least 950AD. To find our more please follow this link to the history pages of our website: http://geddingtonchurch.org.uk/our-church/history/
May God bless you richly as you explore our church further and then bless us richly by adding you to our number.
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There are many reasons to be proud of our churches: sadly there are few parish churches nowadays with such an active membership or with an expanding congregation like ours. Every community needs a strong Christian presence if our world is to become a better place. The importance of the church in this community is something to celebrate. The centuries of worship within these walls are something to cherish and nurture. Our history is another aspect of this.Saxon Stonework
above an early Norman arch with a Saxon doorway in the stonework above
St Mary Magdalene’s has a rich tapestry of historical engagement in our village. In fact, you cannot understand the history of our village and the surrounding area without first understanding the significant part St Mary Magdalene’s has played down the centuries. The story of St Mary Magdalene’s is one of people and community in good times and sad times. It is a history that we continue to build upon today. St Mary Magdalene, Geddington is considered to be one of the most interesting and stunning Christian buildings around and sits as one of 3% of buildings of most architectural and historic interest. The present building is dated by most authorities at between 800 & 950AD (although there are expert arguments placing its construction over a century and a half earlier).
A Saxon Church
Saxon Arcading & the Saxon roof structure embedded in the stonework of later Norman adaptations.
All the same, in a village as ancient as Geddington, there was most likely a church long before the still visible Saxon portion. Before the stone structure was built, it is most likely there was a wodden framed church on the same site. Today, it is still possible to see the Saxon arcading on what was the original exterior wall as well as the slope of the original roof structure in the stonework.
Bones from a Saxon grave were discovered while the floor was being repaired in 1990, and it is thought that these were most likely from a Saxon priest/monk who will have served this church dutifully over 1000 years ago.
A Royal Venue
The Plantagenet Kings who frequented the church added the aisles, in the 12th and 14th century as well as their own personal entrance known as the King’s Door.
The King’s Door
A Royal Hunting Lodge sat behind the church and grew to become known as the Palace of Geddington throughout the Plantagenet and Medieval period. During this time the famous and the infamous attended councils, a parliament and other national and royal assemblies that were held there. As the Christian community grew, so too God’s house needed to expand to house them. Thus, Plantagenet and Medieval Kings engaged in many reordering and development works to aid the church’s growth. They added the aisles, first in the 12th century and later in the 14th, as well as their own personal entrance known as the King’s Door.
It is unclear how old the Royal Hunting Lodge was by the time the Plantagenet kings took ownership, but it has been suggested that this also had Saxon origins and that Edward the Confessor may well have frequented both the lodge and the Church at some time.
Because of its location on the main through route, it seems highly likely that St Anselm will have passed through Geddington on his way to the Council of Rockingham in 1095. If this is the case, then such a holy man will have undoubtedly have stopped off at Geddington Church to pray before such a monumental meeting.
Queen Eleanor of Castile
“Eleanor of Castile, the remarkable woman behind England’s greatest medieval king, Edward I, had one of the most fascinating lives of any of England’s queens. Her childhood was spent in the centre of the Spanish reconquest and was dominated by her military hero of a father (St Ferdinand) and her prodigiously clever brother (King Alfonso X the Learned). Married at the age of twelve and a mother at thirteen, she gave birth to at least sixteen children, most of whom died young. She was a prisoner for a year amid a civil war in which her husband’s life was in acute danger. Devoted to Edward, she accompanied him everywhere, including on Crusade to the Holy Land. All in all, she was to live for extended periods in five different countries. Eleanor was a highly dynamic, forceful personality who acted as part of Edward’s innermost circle of advisers, and successfully accumulated a vast property empire for the English Crown. In cultural terms her influence in architecture and design and even gardening can be discerned to this day, while her idealised image still speaks to us from Edward’s beautiful memorials to her, the Eleanor crosses. One such cross sits across the road from Geddington Church. Of course, the best known event is the procession of Queen Eleanor in 1290. The hundreds of nobles and servants that accompanied her body and attended the Requiem Masses held for her in St Mary Magdalene would still recognise much of the present day church. The Eleanor Cross in the centre of the Village is a memorial to that event. It is possible that it sits on the site of an ancient Holy Well.
Medieval and Beyond
Medieval Arches – on which each carving has been defaced.
Throughout the church there are many, many objects of significance such as sculptures, gargoyles, gravestones and carvings, which attest to its passage through the ages. Some of which bear the marks of the reformers of the mid 1500’s after Henry VIII’s reign, and especially Oliver Cromwell. All images, graven or otherwise were considered heretical, so statuary noses were chiselled off and all of the medieval stained glass that was within reaching distance would have been smashed. The real heresy, of course, was to have destroyed such beautiful craftsmanship from God’s holy house.
A Shrine of an Unknown Saint and Priest
The Shrine of the Unknown Priest – used as an ancient place of pilgrimage.
In the Lady Chapel there is a monument to a significant saint-priest of medieval or earlier period. It is likely that it dates from C1300. His identity is unknown. His preistly credentials are evidenced by the chalice, paten and bible which are place lovingly in his hands. His saintly credentials evidenced by his long neck and tonsure – signs of extreme holiness. Although there have been many differing opinions from historians about its exact origin, it is clear that this would have been a place of significant pilgrimage for centuries, as the Holy Water stoup to the left of the priest’s head signifies – people will have visited this ‘shrine’, touched his hands and his face and then used the Holy Water to bless themselves before moving on. This is evidenced by its smooth wearing over time. This is probably because this unknown saintly figure was recognised for either his healing credentials or his protective ones, or maybe both. It is likely that this ceased to be a place of pilgrimage at the Reformation (16th Century) and that the Victorians moved the effigy when they re-ordered the church. It now sits in our Lady Chapel. Today it is re-opened as a shrine and place of pilgrimage. Although we no longer know the exact credentials of this saintly figure, you are warmly invited to continue to visit this holy place today and pray for healing and protection before The Unknown Priest and Saint.
The 1908 Chancel screen.
St. Mary Magdalene’s is possibly the only church in England which has managed to still have in use all of its chancel screens from various ages; the ancient screen which was meant to be destroyed at the Reformation, the screen from 1618, (a gift of the famous Tresham family), and a screen from the early twentieth century (1908-1910). These screens have been moved into different locations over the passage of time. St Mary Magdalene’s unique proportions mean that any screen in the chancel arch prevents the largest area of the Church being used for normal gatherings, and causes a significant barrier in the worship space. It is for this reason that, for significant periods of its history, St Mary Magdalene’s will not have had a screen at the entrance to its Chancel. Certainly between around 1550 and 1618, and most recently, from between 1850 through to 1908 there will have been no chancel screen in place. During the decade of the 1850s, the congregation, influenced by the Oxford Movement (which later grew into the Anglo-Catholic movement) removed the chancel screen and placed it in a side arch to create a Chapel dedicated to Our Lady. They also made the chancel archway much larger to improve visibility and access. The influential theology of the Oxford Movement believed that the High Altar and Chancel should be open for all and Geddington followed strongly in this mould. Any barrier suggested a bar to common people being able to enter the holiest spaces, which in themselves were symbolic of heaven – that simply would not do. In spite of this, however, in 1908, another screen was eventually fitted to the Chancel arch by the architect Gambier-Parry. He is thought to have been asked to design this in order to complete the earlier, unfinished work of Sir Ninian Comper, however, there is no evidence that Ninian Comper ever envisaged such an addition. Although a very fine piece of local craftsmanship this once again closed the Chancel off to the wider congregation. This means that today the largest area of the church is unable to be used for anything other than the smallest of gatherings.
The Oxford and Anglo-Catholic Movements
You cannot enter St Mary Magdalene without being struck with awe at the influence that the Oxford and Anglo-Catholic Movements had on its architecture between 1850 and 1980. Whether it is the High Altar with its six candlesticks to represent the seven lights of the apocalypse (found in the book of Revelation), the reredos with depictions of the twelve apostles added during the Victorian improvements, the many depictions of Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the twelve foot crucifix located in the Lady Chapel. Geddington has benefited immensely from the beautiful additions of these periods, and its Anglo-catholic theology, and today we continue try to build on this rich inheritance as we look to maintain and improve both our beautiful building and liturgy (worship) in keeping with the historical integrity of the building and its people down the ages.
One of the many depictions of Our Lady
Lady Chapel with a very fine painting of Our Lady and Christchild
Crucifix in Lady Chapel
To find out more about our services click here.
To explore our rich Anglican Liturgical Heritage click here.
Other Notable Facts
The east windows were created by Sir Ninian Comper. He also designed windows for Westminster Abbey and the entirety of St Mary’s in Wellingborough, amongst many others.
Interestingly, the central East window was created in the early part of his illustrious career while the South East window was created much later, and it is startling to see the vast changes in style in the intervening 50 years.
But the History of St Mary Magdalene does not stop there. It bears the marks of many generations as architecture has come and gone in order to help the building adapt to the needs of the Christian community in each new age. Throughout the church there are many, many other objects, sculptures, gargoyles, gravestones and carvings which attest to its passage through the ages.
Sir Ninian Comper – East Window
The Medieval Reredos – altered during the Victorian era – Now in need of substantial repair, which is hoped to be included in a larger project to improve the chancel space for future generations.More information
More detail can be found by visiting the St. Mary Magdalene webiste at http://geddingtonchurch.org.uk.
Or far preferable, come visit us and discover the beauty and history of the village and our church in person. if you know when you will be visiting the village you can write to us at [email protected]