Today, I enjoyed a fascinating tour of five churchyards which were selected with a common theme of links with the Viking era (AD 793-1066) and located within a 20 mile radius of York City. Each of these churches is summarised below.

Kirk Hammerton: A relatively intact church dating from end of the Anglo-Saxon era. This was built in Romanesque form and may have utilised (re-cycled) materials from local Roman era buildings. The architecture features round arches and small windows. In its day the interior would have been dark and dingy, aggravated by smokey tallow candles. The tower, which features a double splayed window at the top, may be later than body of the church. A wonderful gem of a church.

Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Alne: The key features here are:1.Decorated lintel over small, priests door may date from the Anglo-Saxon or Viking eras.2.External archway over main entrance dates from mid 12th C. A complicated and literate work made during a settled period. Carvings influenced by the Book of Beasts which describes a natural history of animals in context of God’s plan for the world. Each of the beasts exhibits different behaviours.3. A 12th C font with heavily carved decoration including a ‘green man’.

St. Helen’s, Bilton-in-Ansty with Bickerton: Key features here are the carved stones (inside the Lady Chapel) which may have been the shaft sections of 10th C era crosses and subsequently used as gravemarkers. One depicts three children in a firey furnace.

Church of the Holy Redeemer: A fascinating building dating from the 1960s but incorporating much architectural material from the demolished church of St. Mary Bishopshill Senior, York. Key features here are:1. Late 12th C archway.2. Anglo-Saxon era carving incorporated in a feature above the altar.

Church of St. James, Nunburnholme. Key features here are:1. The interior arch which is something of a conundrum and has probably been moved from its original position; it dates from 1100 to 1140 AD.2.The Anglo-Saxon cross which is considered the finest sculpture of its type in East Yorkshire. In the past it has been split in two and then reconstructed the wrong way so the carvings are not aligned. On top of the shaft is a socket into which a cross head would have fitted. The carvings are complicated and date from various periods including Late Saxon, Viking Age and Norman. A picture of this cross against background of the arch is shown below.


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