St Olave’s Church

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April, 2015

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Named after the Norwegian King Olaf, who converted Norway to Christianity, there has been a church here since 1055. After the Norman Conquest, the church became the church of the Benedictine monastery of St Mary’s. As the abbey grew in importance, a new abbey church was built in the C13th, and St Olave’s became a parish church. The church was badly damaged during the Civil War and was rebuilt in the early C18th, using stones from the abbey ruins. The church was extended in the late C19th when the chancel was built. At the beginning of the C20th, the vestry was converted to form the Lady Chapel and a new vestry built. Little remains of he medieval church apart from the font and a worn carved stone crucifix above the arch into the Lady chapel

On Marygate, the church is built along the abbey wall and next to the massive gatehouse leading into what were the Abbey grounds, and is now the Museum Gardens.

It is an attractive building with a battlemented and buttressed north aisle with crocketed pinnacles. Above the north door is a statue of St Olaf.

The church is Anglo-Catholic with modern depictions of the stations of the cross on the walls and a strong sense of incense when we opened the door.

Arcades of pointed arches separate the nave from the side aisles. The wooden ceiling has carved angels at the base of the beams. The carved bosses are either flowers or foliage. The wooden pews are C19th with carved poppyheads. The crucifix hanging from the chancel arch dates from 1990.

The elaborately carved C15th font is at the back of the nave. The tall wooden cover is modern.

The chancel ceiling is more ornate with gilded bosses. The panels above the altar are painted blue with gold stars. The beams are picked out in gold. The big modern corbels under the chancel roof are painted with “Holy is God”, “Sovereign Lord”, “Who was and Is” “and to come”. The big corner corbels have modern carvings.

The table altar has three chairs in front of it for the incumbents. Across the east wall is carved panelling. The gilded angles above this are playing musical instruments. The reredos has the Lamb of God in the centre with kneeling angels on either side. Above it, the east window is C15th stained glass. St Olaf is second from the right at the bottom.

The Lady Chapel is preserved for private prayer and has a wood altar with a small reredos above. In the centre is a host box with a gilded Christ and praying angels round the top. A red light hanging from the ceiling indicates the host is kept here. In the corner is a modern carving of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child.

Although close to the attractions of the Historic centre and adjacent to the “Museum Gardens”: , this church receives few visitors. It is a pleasant church but with little, apart from the east window, to attract the visitors. The church is unlocked during the day.

There are more pictures “here.”:


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