St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol

St Mary Redcliffe is an Anglican parish church in Redcliffe, Bristol, and is one of the largest parish churches in England. The church was constructed from the 12th to the 15th centuries, and has been a place of Christian worship for over 900 years. The church is renowned for its beautiful Gothic architecture. There is little left of the earliest churches on the site although a small part of the fabric has been dated to the 12th century. Much of the current building dates from the late 13th and 14th centuries when it was built and decorated by wealthy merchants of the city whose tomb and monuments decorate the church. The spire fell after being struck by lightning in 1446 and was not rebuilt until 1872.

The church was heavily restored during the Victorian era, but despite strenuous efforts, they didn’t succeed in obliterating all traces of the historic graffiti and ritual protection marks that must once have adorned much of the fabric of the church. There are still quite a few survivors to bear witness to the marks left behind by early visitors to the church who carved their initials in the stone, and inscribed marks intended to invoke the protection of the Virgin Mary, and it is perhaps not surprising that numerous Marian marks can be found, mainly on and near several of the tombs in the church that bears her name.

The Wikipedia entry gives a comprehensive history of the church and the church’s own website can be found here. St Mary Redcliffe is a Grade 1 listed building.

There is a small compass drawn circle on the left of the doorway into the church from the South Porch, and in the North Porch a lovely graffito of a church can be found, with the initials IM and a date of 1669. IM appears in several other places in the church.

IM 1669, church graffito, North Porch
IM 1689, church graffito, North Porch

For Marian marks, the North Transept and the tomb of Robert de Berkleley, as well as the Mede Tomb provide rich pickings, as do the areas around the tombs. The same is true of the tomb of the merchant William Canynges and his carved alabaster monument. There are numerous merchants’ marks throughout the building identifying many of the benefactors of the church.

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The church is open daily and there is a nearby car park on Redcliffe Parade East onthe opposite side of the dual carriageway, as well as some on street metered parking in the vicinity.

St Mary Redcliffe Church
12 Colston Parade

Report by Linda Wilson