St Mary's Priory Church
You are looking at a Victorian remodeling of a Georgian church which cost just over £6000 - the original designs cost £22,000 which could not be raised. The interior dates from 1882 and was designed to accommodate 1000 people. Both chapels were later additions. Many pews have now been removed and part of the rood screen has been moved to the rear of the church to form a Narthex. The rood was originally plain wood and only recently has been coloured. The pipe organ to the left of the chancel has been recently renovated and is such a fine instrument that the church now hosts a series of organ recitals throughout the summer. The East window is from the well known firm of Charles Eamer Kempe. The picture which forms the reredos is well worth looking at.
The Lady Chapel
The Lady Chapel contains an 'English Altar' with four riddel posts each with an unusual brass base and wrought iron capital supporting a newly gilded angel. The screen features the remarkable ironwork and woodwork of Letheren and Martin. H.H.Martin made the Speaker's Chair in the House of Commons and the pulpit of St Paul's Cathedral in London.
The Lady Chapel contains the Reserved Sacrament and is used every day for morning and evening prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist. Its stained glass is the work of Charles Eamer Kempe.
Detail of the ironwork on the Lady Chapel gates
The High Altar and Reredos
The high altar is backed by a reredos in the form of a picture which features the 'Adoration of the Magi'. It was painted by Watney Wilson RA and dated 1888. Very little is known about the artist.
Saint Matthew does not say that there were three kings but tradition has named Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar as the three descendants of the three sons of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth, and thus the representatives of the three races of mankind.
They offered Jesus symbolic gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. The gold acknowledges Jesus as the King; the frankincense recognises him as Priest and the myrrh as Sacrifice.
The Rood (Anglo-Saxon word for CROSS) dominates the entrance to the Chancel in the church. On the rood, Mary and John are shown at the foot of the cross. This is in accordance with what we are told in the Gospel according to St. John. (John 19:25,26).
The rood was originally plain wood but was painted in the early 70's to fit into the colour scheme of the church dictated by the rich but deep colours of the stained glass windows.
The rood screen used to separate the Chancel from the Nave but was partly removed and relocated towards the back of the church to form a Narthex.
Most of the stained glass is from the studios of Charles Eamer Kempe, a notable Victorian stain glass artist whose glass is to be found in some of the finest cathedrals in Great Britain.
The windows carry his trademark of three wheatsheaves or one wheatsheaf. The most notable window is located in the tower at the West end of the church. It is called the 'Four Rivers Window' and has Baptism as it's theme - the four rivers are named in the window as Pishon, Gihon, Tigris and Euphrates. The reticulated tracery dates from c.1340 whilst the window is dated 1883.
The royal connection with Monmouth is further seen in the 'Four Edwards Window' on the South wall. It features Edward VII who was a good friend of our local Lord Llangattock of the Hendre. The other three kings are Edward the Confessor, Edward I - the creator of Parliament and Edward the Black Prince.
The windows in the lady Chapel have as their subject The Passion. The window on the East wall depicts Christ on the Cross, flanked by St.Mary and St John. Tapestries hang behind each figure. Below the cross are seen the descent from the Cross, the Entombment and the Descent into Hell. One scene shows the devil crushed underneath the doors of Hell as Christ bursts in.
The window on the South wall features events preceding the Crucifixion. The top light shows Pilate presenting Christ to the Jews and Jesus with the sleeping disciples whilst the bottom lights show Christ carrying his cross and the soldiers mocking Jesus.
Boer War window at St Mary's Church
Showing Henry V, the Medieval Monnow Bridge and Monmouth Borough Seal.
The precise origin of the bells are unknown but earliest records show:
In 1673 "paid Robert Marshall for staples and locks and keys and the irons for five bells 1.2.6...".
The Medieval Tiles
Those tiles that survive from the monastic church are now located in frames on the wall at the back of the church. The majority of the tiles are 15th. Century with some from the 14th. Century. The tiles were made by Malvern tilers in a kiln, the first of its kind in Wales, recently discovered in Monk Street - Monmouth. Similar patterns are to be found in the Benedictine Tintern Abbey - a world famous ruin in the Wye Valley, and at Clarendon Palace. One of the best tiles now resides in the British Museum - London.
The Priory buildings are located across the green from the church and feature 'Geoffrey's Window'. This fine oriel window has the carved 15th.century figures of a Knight, an Angel and a Miller supporting the bay.
Geoffrey of Monmouth is renowned for his book on the 'History of the British Kings' in which there are references to King Lear and the exploits of King Arthur.
The word Icon is a Greek word meaning 'image'. The icon that you see is that of 'The mother of God of the Sign'. The Greek letters stand for 'Mother of God' -'He who is' - and 'Jesus Christ'. The Church in Wales has an official Iconographer -The Revd. Brian Bessant who prayed through the painting of this Icon. One of the many prayers that can be said as you look upon this Icon is:
As I stand before this icon
Help me to understand that it is not so much I who is
Looking at you, rather, through this icon, Lord, it is
You who are looking at me.
Icons have new meanings to every onlooker. Perhaps Mary is saying: ' look! - take from me the very essence of my humanity and godliness - Jesus Christ.'
What do you think?
The Font of carved Portland stone and green Genoa marble was installed in the present position in 1982.