There has been a church on Holy Island since C7th when St Aidan established a monastery on here. This had two churches. The larger and more easterly St Peter’s Church was the monastery church. The smaller westerly church of St Mary would have served the wider community which grew up around the Priory.
St Mary’s would originally have been a wooden building but was later replaced by stone. The remains of the Saxon arch can be made out above the chancel arch. The north aisle and north arcade date from the late C12th. The rest of the church was rebuilt in the C13th, when a long narrow chancel replaced the Saxon /Norman apse.
After the Dissolution of the monasteries, St Mary’s continued as the parish church. The buttressed bell turret is Georgian and was added in the early C18th. There was a major restoration in the C19th.
It is a simple but attractive church with a Norman north arcade with round pillars and round arches and a later south arcade with octagonal pillars and pointed arches. The arches are picked out in bands of different coloured stone. Pews and pulpit are from the C19th restoration.
At the back of the nave is a stone font with a modern wooden lid with a lovely carving of a child reaching out to a dove.
The long narrow chancel feels bare as most of the choir stalls have been removed. At the far end is a simple table altar. The modern reredos on the east wall has the Crucifixion at the centre with Northumbrian saints and the Virgin. The carpet in front of the altar has a Celtic design similar to those seen in the Lindisfarne Gospels, as do the kneelers in the pews.
There are funeral hatchments on the chancel walls and a old stone grave slab behind the priests chair.
The south aisle contains a large elm sculpture entitled ‘The Journey” with six monks carrying St Cuthbert’s coffin.
The north aisle is known as the fisherman’s aisle. The altar is dedicated to St Peter and has two crossed keys on the front. Draped around it is fishing net with small fishes caught in it.
Stained glass windows are C19th apart from the lovely lancet window in the north wall of the chancel with images of Holy Island and the two windows at the west end of the two side aisles.
This is a very attractive church and is always busy with visitors to the island. The church is open daily and the nearest post code is TD15 2RX. The grid reference is
There are more pictures “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/north/northumberland/northumberland_two/holy_mary/index.html