Kilpeck Church - a country church with amazing carvings


Kilpeck Church - a country church with amazing carvings

The Church of St Mary and St David in Kilpeck, Herefordshire, is remarkable for its beautiful Norman carvings - and is described as "one of the most perfect Norman churches in England".

Visitors to rural France may be aware that Norman churches, with their distinctive carved doorways, are pretty common. They are much rarer in England, but Kilpeck perhaps makes up for this. Not only is it wonderfully Norman and decorative - but the stone carvings are particularly exuberant and well-preserved. What's more, they are a mix of styles and influences, many distinctively Celtic, Norse or pagan.

Once adjacent to a Benedictine monastery, the church dates from about 1140AD and is little changed since. Kilpeck was gifted to William fitz Norman after the Conquest and the church was commissioned by his son, Hugh. It has many elaborate carvings, many of a distinctly un-Christian nature. Celtic, Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon and pagan imagery vies with Christian iconography in a riot of dragons, warriors, monsters and animals. What Hugh intended the parishioners to learn from these images we can only speculate, but we can detect everywhere imagery of life, death and re-birth.

Kilpeck was built by the “Herefordshire School” who were influenced by the churches of South-West France and the pilgrimage destination of The Cathedral of St James at Santiago de Compostella in Northern Spain.

Further reading

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