Albion, ancient sites, Archaeology, Art, Books, Photography, sacred sites, spirituality, travel

Discovering Albion – day 5: Aspatria

scotland trip jan 15 240By the time we had watched the flock of crows and wandered around the churchyard we were about ready to try the door. Would it be open? There is always that question… Many of the churches in villages and small towns stand open to visitors, but not all, and not always in winter when tourists are thin on the ground. But we were in luck.

scotland trip jan 15 179“You’re not going to believe this…” No. It did seem a bit much of a coincidence… another hogback stone. You have to remember these things are rare… and we weren’t looking for them. In fact, the only one I had ever seen was the one in the little church at Heysham that had been closed for renovations the day before… was it only the day before?…. when we had tried to see it. This was the third since then. Though badly damaged, it was still something of a gift.

scotland trip jan 15 254There has been a church on the site here since the sixth or seventh century. The earliest church would have been Saxon and probably a wooden structure, replaced a thousand years ago by a stone-built Norman church. The present building is Victorian. Curiously, the history says that foundation stone was laid in 1846 with full Masonic ritual. The builders did, however, retain the dog-tooth chancel arch, now at the base of the tower and a Norman doorway with its distinctive chevron of stone. Once again, we were looking at red sandstone.

scotland trip jan 15 238The piscina and sedilia in the sanctuary have been painted and gilded in the manner of the elder days, giving a feel of the light and colour that once reigned in our churches. A side chapel preserved, holding the memorials to the great and good of the area. The stained glass is lovely, and includes a set of windows showing the Canticles… the great songs of the Bible. Which means there was the Nunc Dimitis… which means another Simeon window… remind me to tell you about the Simeon affair one of these days…

scotland trip jan 15 222Then there was the font… Old, but of unknown age it was badly damaged at the time of the Reformation in the 16th century, but later restored with stained plaster to camouflage the damage and placed on pillars. It is a curious thing, wreathed in foliage… yet look closer and there are serpents entwined with the vines, sprouting leaves from their mouths.

scotland trip jan 15 186Then there was the standing cross… under the Norman arch… and the fragments of carved stones in the vestry… and the cross head and interlaced designs set into the reconstructed arch… and the ancient cross shaft… and, well you get the picture. If I’d had flowers they would have gone on the Revered Calverley’s grave.

scotland trip jan 15 208Like I said, you can’t judge a book by its cover… or a church just because it looks Victorian. Rev. Calverley had done us proud with his collection of ancient stones. There is just so much to see in this little church!

scotland trip jan 15 213We missed things… but as always we had the camera. One thing, however that we did not see and did not photograph… and I have pretty much every inch of the place… was the Swastika Stone. Now, ‘my’ moors have a swastika stone, so I would have noticed. It has nothing to do with the later corruption of the symbol. This particular example dates back to around 450AD and the symbol is thought to be a representation of eternity or the solar wheel… and this I would have liked to have seen. Maybe if we are back in the area one day..?

Image: Terry Carrick
Image: Terry Carrick