Minster Lovell:

St Kenelms ChurchSt. Kenelm’s Church

Make your way through the village and, if in a car, leave it in the marked parking area. The church and house are a few steps away. The term minster is first found in royal foundation charters of the 7th century, corresponding to the Latin monasterium or monastery. It came to mean any settlement of clergy living a communal life obliged to maintain the daily office of prayer. Widespread in 10th century Anglo-Saxon England, minsters declined in importance with the introduction of parishes from the 11th century. The name remained as a title of dignity in later medieval England where a religious institution had Anglo-Saxon origins. Eventually a minster came to refer more generally to “any large or important church, especially a collegiate or cathedral church”.

St. Kenelm was a local saint, probably a Mercian prince, who was buried in Winchcombe Abbey (long disappeared), his shrine becoming a popular medieval place of pilgrimage. The church at Minster Lovell, one of seven dedicated to the saint to be found along the roads leading to Winchcombe, is cruciform, with the bell tower in the middle and reflects the layout of the priory minster that preceded it. It was built in about 1450 by William the 7th Baron Lovell, who demolished the 12th century church and house in order to build this version and a new great house next door. The whole church, according to the history of art critic, Nikolaus Pevsner, is “almost entirely unaltered and has handsome details”. Some of the details in question include the alabaster tomb in the Lady Chapel, in the south transept, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which is probably that of the 7th Baron Lovell himself, the church’s founder. Much of his appearance derives from the extensive graffiti scrawled over him throughout the centuries.
Where the tower pillars meet the nave walls are some wonderful carved heads, supposed to represent King Henry VI (southwest), Lady Lovell (southeast), Lord Lovell (northwest) and Bishop Marmaduke Lumley (northeast), whose Lincoln diocese included Oxfordshire.
A metal sign attached to the organ makes interesting reading, warning organists not to leave candles and other live flames in the organ.


Minster Lovell Hall

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