Barnack. church : st john the baptist

Late summer 2013, and a return trip, along with a friend, to the church of St John The Baptist at Barnack. This is one of the most historic and beautiful churches to be found within the catchment area of this site so I have devoted two pages for it. This page covers interior shots only, exterior shots have a page to themselves.

   It was quite late on in the day when we arrived, well after 6pm on a Sunday evening,  and I was a little surprised to find the church still open. The age of this church is evident for all to see by the number of carved Saxon stone fragments that are on display.

   The nave is large and spacious, and there are north and south aisles. The north aisle dates from 1190 with the south aisle being added ten years later. The chancel dates from 1300. The font is very beautiful and dates from the early 13th century.

   One of the most important features of the interior of the church here is a carved figure of Christ In The Act  Of Benediction. This was found buried under the floor of the north aisle in 1931. Experts are divided as to the age of this carving. Some suggest that it dates from the 11th century, whilst others favour the 13th century.

   Moving from the nave to the chancel the eye is drawn to a wonderful depiction of the crucifiction hanging from the ceiling. A very powerful image.Those who have been regular visitors to this site over the years will probably know of my love for quirky stone carvings and the interior of the church here does not disappoint. One carving in particular I found of interest. This appears to be a depiction of the devil, complete with bat flying around his head.

   Some beautiful high quality stained glass windows can be seen here. No real age to these, with some dating back to Victorian times but they are of very high quality. A large stained glass window in the chancel depicts Christ in glory at the top, with the crucifiction below and nine other secnes from the life of Christ surrounding it. There is also stained glass in the south lady chapel and more stained glass in the nave tells the story of the nativity.

  Fairly high up on the north wall of the chancel (and a little too high for me to get a decent photo of) is a monument to one Francis Whitstone, who died in 1598. The deceased is pictured kneeling at a desk on which there is a book, which I assume to be a Bible. Behind him at his seven sons. Interesting to see that his hands are oversized, this symbolising that he was a very devoted and pious man. Opposite Whitstone is his wife, who is also kneeling at a desk with her Bible in front of her. She has three daughters behind her. Sadly, the daughters have not aged well over the years. One of the daughters is missing her head, with another missing the whole top half of her body. Interestingly, four of the seven male children are carved as one would expect, but three are painted on instead!   A tiny carving of a skeleton at the top of the monument holds the gravediggers tools of pick and shovel whilst carrying an hourglass, all of these being symbols of the mortality of man.

   A return trip in June 2016 on Cambridgeshire Historic Churches tour day saw an interesting talk about this church. It was pointed out that there is a stone seat at the west end of the nave, along with what could have been an aumbry, for storing sacred vessels. This could point to the fact that there may have been an alter at the west end of the church at some point back in time. It was a Roman custom for the alter to be at the west end, and this practice was carried on in places in Saxon times.

  The church of St John The Baptist is normally to be found open to visitors and is a great joy to see. Well worth a look if you are in the area.

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