Thursday, January 15, 2009
THE BENEDICTINE PRIORY AT CHEPSTOW 2-A Lookalike!
Today we will look at this priory Church,of St Mary de Crypt built by the Augustinians of Llanthony Secunda Abbey as their base in the city of Gloucester. They built up the priory church by extending the Norman Church of the Blessed Mary. These monks were from the second Abbey built near Gloucester Dock, who themselves had moved, following waves of attacks by Welsh rebels!I will blog about Llanthony Abbey separately, as it, too is part of the Norman Story.Whilst a great deal of the Norman remains in Chepstow Priory remain, interesting here is the priory building attached to the Priory Church. This church is later than Chepstow, and the interior style Early English rather than Norman. The tower is centrally placed , as Chepstow's originally was.Also, on the photo above, you can clearly see the priory accommodation in the fourteenth century building with the special window crest. I believe the Chepstow building to have been similar and perhaps L shaped.
The interior of the Church is more Gothic than the Chepstow building. The Chapel in the transept remains. Formerly dedicated to Our Lady, it would have had a statue, flowers and candles, and open for everyday devotions. The Central aisle leads all the way up to the altar and what would have been the sanctuary. There in the Chancel on the right hand side is the sedillia or sacred priest's seats and the piscina, where the chalice was washed.
The Left hand aisle, which probably contained the Easter Sepulchre, where the consecrated host was held from Holy Thursday until the Easter Vigil. The Church is lighter and slightly smaller than Chepstow, but the St Mary de Crypt, fairly typical of the Priory building of the time (very similar to the restored Monmouth Priory)could have looked quite similar to this.The Chepstow building branching down from the South transept to the road which goes over te old bridge, the Priory accommodation spreading up along the contours of the road.
The centre had a courtyard, containing a well. The Priory also had a brewery, orchards to the north and contained a room for the priest. It must have been an equally large affair as St Mary de Crypt in Gloucester. This area of Gloucester also contains the remains of Greyfriars and the whole building of Blackfriars, the Dominicans early building, which is in fine order.
The fifteenth century nave contains an early renaissance style pulpit.When the Anglicans took it, it became the Crypt Grammar School and later Robert Raikes founded the 'Sunday School Movement' which spread all over the country. Unfortunately the administrators of St Mary's took the statue of Our Lady out and put a picture of Robert Raikes in there and this has now been called the 'Robert Raikes Chapel'. Many details are still extant from the old priory such as the steps leading to the dormitories. In all this is a fascinating church and even the head of one of the abbots of Llantony lies high near a pillar on the left hand side of the nave. Amazingly the pulpitum of the Lady Chapel has been restored and is pristine.The Easter Sepulchre area now contains a large organ, and the bells are rung regularly. The Priory interior is in a poor state of repair and closed to the pulic at present. When you look at this Priory Church, however, think of Chepstow.