You can’t really miss the font as you walk into the church in Bakewell. It has to be one of the best of its kind… certainly one of the finest we have seen from its era. While the church was founded in 960AD ,it was built mainly in the 12th and 13thC …with the usual, heavy renovations from the Victorians… but the font is slightly later, being a mere 700 years old. It is an unusual design, octagonal with carved figures on each of the faces. It stands in a small baptistry in the corner of the church and is still in use after all these years. there is something beautiful in that continuity. Regardless of how
badly vandalised heavily renovated these old churches may be, many of them still have their original font to baptise those new to their faith.
We, of course, have seen it before, but our companions had not. This was their first visit. Even so, by taking time to point out some of the features we knew well… like the late wall paintings, the collection of Saxon and early Norman stones in the alcoves… the rather special window depicting Saints George and Hubert… we still managed to see things we had previously missed.
We always seem to start at the back of the churches we visit and work our way around. Saving the obvious highlights of choir and chancel, perhaps… but mainly because the things that interest us most are often tucked away in odd corners. Beneath the Hubert window is a little chapel area for quiet prayer.
The candles are always burning here and orthodox, gilded icons sit side by side with modern embroidery and a little statuette of the Mother and Child which is so reminiscent of Isis and Horus. This too is a continuity of worship and I have to wonder if this is not one of the oldest manifestations of mankind’s collective consciousness of some form of dvinity and wonder.
These old stones have been a vessel of prayer for so many centuries; before the stones there would have been a timber church… before that, perhaps a site sacred since long before the birth of Jesus. Inside, the place is calm, accepting its own evolution as times, worship and fashions change. It has seen whole congregations born and baptised, wedded and buried. None of those outer and material changes affect what is held here in serenity. The sanctity of this space is palpable, whether or not one subscribes to its particular religious expression.
We saw a good many things we had not noticed before, from the inscription from Revelation at the base of the window by Henry Holiday, to the fox and bird-like masks carved on the feet of the pulpit, reminiscent of the Norman beaked carvings we have so often seen elsewhere. The pulpit itself is relatively modern, but perfectly in keeping with the history of the place, carved with symbols and geometries taken from the ancient stones in the porch.
I was determined, however, that this time I would get a really good look at some of the wood carvings in the choir… and if the light was good, I might even get some decent photographs… So we passed bethind the central altar and headed in search of demons and dragons…