Tuesday, 31 March 2009

St Mary's, Shrewsbury

Now in the care of the Churches Conservation trust, St Mary's lies in a lovely leafy close in the centre of mediaeval Shrewsbury.

From the outside, the 222ft spire is the dominant feature, but inside, you find a superbly well preserved church, with a Norman tower, a nave in the transitional style of the early 1200s, and elements from all the major Gothic styles - Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular - represented in the aisles, transepts and chapels.

But the real glory is to be found by looking out, up, and down.

The windows contain an outstanding collection of mediaeval stained glass, some of it local, but most brought here from Europe in the mid-19th century. The prize goes to the 14th century Tree of Jesse window - the most complete in England - whose colours are still vibrant. But there's also important glass from Belgium, Germany (from Altenburg Abbey and Trier Cathedral) and Holland, from the 15th to 17th centuries.

Look up, at the 15th-century coffered wooden roof, decorated with animals, birds and angels. And before you leave, look down at the superb collection of early Victorian encaustic tilework, beautifully restored. Covering almost the whole of the floorspace, they combine a range of vigorous geometric patterns with bold colours. Finally, in the Trinity Chapel, there's a magnificent tiled reredos featuring colourful opus-sectile mosaic work.

All in all, this is a veritable feast of pre-20th century crafts and design

St Mary's Street, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 1EF Website

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