Medieval parish churches


Detail of St.Mary the Virgin, Wymondham

England’s parish churches are treasure houses of Medieval art. Few countries have such a wealth of Medieval buildings and fittings. The reasons for this legacy are many, but central to their survival was the peculiar nature of the English Reformation. From the mid-sixteenth century onwards, parish churches were attacked by the reformers: statues were decapitated, windows smashed, paintings whitewashed and furnishings ripped out. But the buildings themselves remained largely intact. Maintained rather than rebuilt in subsequent centuries, they were rediscovered by the Medieval-obsessed Victorians, who lavished attention on them.

East Anglia possesses some of the greatest Medieval churches in the country. The majority date from the later Middle Ages, when economic prosperity resulted in the rebuilding of most parish churches. Essentially Perpendicular in style, they are celebrated for their high towers, vast windows and superlative woodwork. Generally, the reformers treated the churches more kindly here than elsewhere, and with less population growth in subsequent centuries, the buildings were little adapted. The result: Medieval architectural gems found throughout the region.

About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

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