Saint Mary's Parish Church
Holy Island
Vicar: Rev'd Dr. Paul M. Collins
Wardens: Dr. R. Booth, M. Fleeson
Holy Island Coat of Arms
AngloSaxon architecture - 'Saxon Door' The parish church stands on the site of the wooden church built by St. Aidan in 635 AD, which during the Anglo-Saxon period was replaced by a small stone church. The Benedictine monks of Durham, who in the 12th century began to build the second monastery, decided this should be the parish church and employed and paid a chaplain to care for the villagers.
The building was enlarged twice: once in the 12th century by a Romanesque north arcade and a Norman apse (now gone) and an early English south arcade and chancel in the 13th century. Parts of the original Saxon church survive in the wall containing the chancel arch. The tower and the porch were added later.
St.Mary's - Church Vestry
At the Reformation the church became Anglican and, as the centuries went by, fell into great disrepair. A thorough restoration in 1860 restored it to a clean, usable state, with oak furnishings in the chancel and pine in the nave. The restorers covered the interior of the nave walls with plaster. Most of this has been removed in the last 40 years.
There has been no further alteration to the structure of the church except that the porch on the north side, which served as a mortuary, was opened into the church. For many years the enclosed space served as the church vestry up until the recent phase of church restoration, repair and change during which a stone ramp has been built inside the church, along the south and west walls, to accommodate wheel-chair users.

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The church is built in an attractive multi-coloured sandstone: cream, pink and grey. The visitor, standing at the centre back, will notice the difference in shape between the arcades on the left and the right, the 'Saxon door' in the wall high above the chancel arch, and the very long chancel leading to the high altar. There were chapels on each side: on the north side (the 'fishermen's aisle') the altar is dedicated to St. Peter, the window above shows the miraculous catch of fish, and a small coracle and a lobster-pot emphasise the traditional Island dependence on fishing. On the south side the chapel of St. Margaret of Scotland now has the organ instead of an altar.
As the visitor looks to the east all the stained glass windows are from the 19th century, including the brilliant Ascension window over the high altar. The west wall has two 20th century windows depicting St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert. Handmade carpets, based on designs in the Lindisfarne Gospels, lie in front of the two altars. A replica of St. Cuthbert's coffin is along the north wall; hatchments from three local families have been restored and are mounted in the chancel; the work of replacing the hassocks by ones of a single design is ongoing.
In the south aisle stands the imposing statue known as The Journey, depicting the monks of Lindisfarne carrying St.Cuthbert's body on the first stage of its journey to Durham and is probably the first thing to catch the visitor's eye. The sculpture is an acclaimed work of Dr Fenwick Lawson made up of 35 piece of elmwood, carved principally with a chain-saw. This has been loaned to St Mary's Church and a bronze copy has been placed in the Millennium Square in Durham, thus marking the start and finishing places of the journey of St Cuthbert's coffin between 698 and c920.

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The Churchyard at St Mary's is particularly attractive and beautifully kept by the Island folk. It is sacred ground and is not intended for picnics or as a playground. Visitors are asked not to walk close to the graves, several of which are unmarked. The statue of St Aidan is by Kathleen Parbury who is herself buried here. Access to the adjoining Priory, for which you need to purchase a ticket at the English Heritage Museum, is available through our Churchyard. The Monastic strip - on the west side of the Churchyard - is cared for by volunteers and its format is explained in a short leaflet available from the church.
When browsing around our churchyard and particularly if you have visited the Farne Islands and heard of our local heroine, Grace Darling, the grave of 'Field Flowers' may well be of interest to you.

The parish would like to emphasise that this is a living, working church. We have three services every day throughout the year, extras for groups of pilgrims etc as required, and appropriate services to meet the needs of the parish. All visitors are welcome at the services.
Before you leave, please take a moment to reflect in God's house; light a candle beside the icon or fill in a prayer request at the prayer board and give a minute or two to say your own prayer.
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