Christchurch Priory

Christchurch Priory is a colossal church in Christchurch, a town five miles east of Bournemouth in Dorset. At 311 feet, it is the longest parish church in England.

The church is notable for more than just its size. In Simon Jenkins' book England's Thousand Best Churches, Christchurch Priory is one of only 18 churches awarded five stars. Jenkins writes, "The church is sensational. The view of the reredos as climax to the Norman nave and crossing arch is a coup de théâtre of church architecture."

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History of Christchurch Priory

Christchurch Priory stands on the site of a Saxon minster dating from 650 AD, but the church dates primarily from the Norman and Perpendicular periods. According to legend, the building materials for the church were miraculously moved overnight to the present location and a mysterious carpenter assisted in the work — hence the priory's name.

The church was transferred from a priory (monastic) church to a parish church at the Reformation. The monastic buildings were destroyed, but the church survived relatively unharmed.

What to See at Christchurch Priory

The choir is beautifully lit by huge windows and contains the oldest misericords in England, dating from 1210. These delightful wood-carved seats feature such scenes as a fox preaching to a flock of geese.

The choir is separated from the nave by a finely carved 14th-century Jesse Screen (reredos) depicting the family tree of Jesus surmounted by an Epiphany scene. This was probably re-erected when the new Perpendicular chancel was built almost two centuries later.

The stair turret features graceful arcading on the ground floor, colonettes on the second, a trellis pattern on the third floor, and more blind arcading at the top. The Lady Chapel has an unusual upper story, which was used as a grammar school and is now a museum. Underneath the church are three Saxon crypts. For a charge, you can climb the 120-foot tower for some fine views of the area.

Quick Facts on Christchurch Priory

Site Information
Names:Christchurch Priory
Country:England
Categories:churches; England's Thousand Best Churches: Five Stars
Styles:Romanesque
Dedication: Christ
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:50.732157° N, 1.774067° W
Address:Christchurch, England
Email:verger@christchurchpriory.org
Website:www.christchurchpriory.org
Hours:Mon-Sat 9:30-5:30; Sun 2-5:30pm
Lodging:View hotels near Christchurch Priory
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. The Rough Guide to England, 7th ed. (May 2006), 282.
  2. Official Website of Christchurch Priory
  3. Simon Jenkins, England's Thousand Best Churches (2001), 153-55.

More Information

Map of Christchurch Priory

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