Development of an ancient parish church


An ancient parish church has usually undergone a series of redevelopments through the centuries, to take account of new architectural styles, growing congregations and necessary repairs. The evolution of old churches can be estimated from the style of arches, doorways and windows, as these features were most commonly changed.

The main architectural styles are Saxon (597 - 1066); Norman (1066 - 1200); Early English (c1200 - 1290); Decorated (c1290 - 1350); and Perpendicular (c1350 - 1530).

The oldest surviving parish church in England is St Martin’s in Canterbury, which dates to about 590AD.

Since the 1500s, the principal parts of an ancient church have remained basically unaltered. Stonework weathered over the centuries may have been replaced, and in some cases vestries have been attached, but essentially the structure is the same.

Discover churches

A picture speaks a thousand words

The Centre for Christianity and Culture at the University of York has produced a series of fascinating interactive DVDRoms exploring the history and heritage of parish churches, cathedrals, pilgrimage and much more. If you want to understand the history of places of worship, and explore their features and treasures in depth, these resources are a great place to start.

The DVDRoms include 3D visualisations of the exterior walls of an ancient church, bringing the process to life in an incredible clear way. Several of these are available on their YouTube channel.

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