St Mary’s Church

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Lastingham is a most attractive stone village on the southern edge of the North York Moors, set in a deep valley with a stream flowing through it. The church is on the higher ground to the west of the village.

The church stands on the site of a 7thC Celtic monastery founded by St Cedd of Lindisfarne. The crypt is thought to have been built as a burial place for St Cedd and was built in 1078. A substantial church was planned but from 1088 building work stopped and the church was derelict for 140 years. In 1228 work began again on the nave and chancel. The north aisle followed. The south aisle was completed in the 14thC and the tower in the 15thC. The church was beginning to fall into disrepair again in the 19thC and in need of a major restoration. The vaulted roof and porch date from this.

It is an attractive church with sheep grazing in the churchyard. It has a small square tower at the west end with a low pyramidal roof. The clerestoried nave is high with lower side aisles. At the east end is an apse, part of the 1078 church.Walls have big buttresses. There is a row of corbels along the top of the nave and carved corbels along the chancel.

Entry is through the south door, still with sanctuary knocker and set under a big plain Norman arch.

Inside the nave, steps lead down to the crypt. These were a 19thC addition as previously entry had been from the outside. The crypt is the only one in England to have an apse, nave and side aisles. The massive round columns stand on pre-Conquest bases and have heavy carved capitals. There is a stone table altar in the apse and the only natural light is through a small Norman window. There are old tombstones and parts of 10thC crosses scattered around on the floor. you need to watch your feet. The woo medieval bier is also stored here. There are a few wood benches and a small prie dieu. It is definitely atmospheric down here.

The church feels warm and light in comparison. The unusual vaulted ceiling is 19thC as are the furniture.

There is a narrow pointed arch into the base of the tower. This has an iron ladder attached to the wall suggesting the tower may have been used for defence in troubled times.

At the back of the nave is a round tub font.

Two pillars with pointed arches separate nave and side aisles. At the end of the north aisle is a small chapel used for private prayer, with a massive stone altar

There are massive pillars supporting a round arch into the chancel which has a low stone screen. The altar is in the apse with a metal altar rail across. On the south side is a piscina and small sedilia. The three Norman windows contain 19thC stained glass. On the left is a Christ rising from the dead with sleeping soldiers. In the centre is the Crucifixion. On the right is the Nativity.

This is a marvellous church, especially the crypt. We have visited many times and never cease to be amazed by it. It is definitely worth finding. It is open daily 9-6 and there is parking outside the church.

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