St Mary's is the Parish Church for Cerne Abbas in Dorset. It is a living church, open during daylight hours (or until about 5pm when it's light later) year-round. Come in to learn about the history of the village (boards in the tower room), say a prayer and/or light a candle, join in with one of our many concerts or other musical events, have a coffee and a slice of cake (1st Wednesday of the month), ring the bells (practice 7pm most Thursdays), or attend a service. Special services are highlighted on the church's Facebook page, Cerne Abbas St Mary's Church. We also celebrate seasonal events at the Silver Well and at the Vicarage.
The villagers of Cerne Abbas probably worshipped in the Abbey Church until about 1300, when the monks built this parish church for them. Dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, the church received its first vicar in 1317. The original chancel was expanded to include a screen, nave and aisles around 1450.
At the Reformation the church interior, which had had murals of bible stories such as those still barely visible near the altar on its walls for the illiterate population, was whitewashed. As a sign of the times, in the 17thC bible verses were painted on the walls instead. It is worth taking time to read them, and consider who (vicar? churchwarden?) ordered each painted to be where it is and why that verse and why there?!
In 1870, an arch was inserted into the screen so the east window could be seen from the nave. A framed photograph on the screen at the back of the church shows what it looked like before this alteration.