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Sunday, 1 February 2015

St Cyriac and the tour party

St Cyriac's, church, Lacock, Wiltshire

Had I led a better life, perhaps spending more time with saints than sinners, maybe I would have heard of St Cyriac before stumbling ignorantly into his church in Lacock.  For the benefit of anyone else who has somehow managed to cope so far without this knowledge - and I’m sure there’s at least one of you - St Cyriac was (allegedly) a 3-year old boy who lived in the 4th century.  His mother, Julitta, was horribly tortured and executed for her Christian faith in Tarsus, in the Roman province of Silicia (modern Turkey).  Making the best of various accounts I have seen, little Cyriac was sitting on the governor’s knee and scratched the governor’s face, whereupon the latter leapt up and threw the infant to the marble floor with such force that it killed the poor child outright.

St Cyriac's, Lacock, church, Wiltshire

There is at least one other St Cyriac, or Cyriacus, who was beheaded on the orders of the Emperor Maximian and who had a reputation for being good at performing exorcisms.  The stories seem to get terribly mixed up, but it is the young lad who is traditionally venerated at Lacock.  You don’t get too many Cyriacs in Britain – there’s one each in Cambridge, Devon and Cornwall; and this one in Wiltshire.

St Cyriac, boy saint, Lacock, church, Wiltshire

Now, I would never wish to denigrate these people and their undeserved appalling ends, assuming they actually existed.  But you have to question how seriously you should take a religion that turns a 3-year old child into a saint.  We can, however, be encouraged that the Holy Church (apparently) never officially recognised the cult figure of St Guinefort, a 13th century dog who was also killed in tragic circumstances.  Who said the Reformation was a wholly Bad Thing..?

St Cyriac's, nave, Lacock, Wiltshire

But, anyway, this is the handsome church of St Cyriac which has served the comfortable community of Lacock since I don’t know when – and still does.  Probably built on the site of an Anglo-Saxon predecessor, the church has a Norman foundation but is largely 14th and 15th century, with a 17th century spire and restoration work dating from the 18th and 19th centuries.  In short, and not untypically, it has a little bit of everything.  Its large size and relative grandeur are due to the relative wealth of the parish, at one time reliant on a profitable wool trade.  In 2013, the church sold its ‘Lacock Cup’, a superb silver drinking goblet dated to around 1429, to the British Museum for £1.3 million; the cash will help with the high costs of maintaining a building like St Cyriac’s.

Sharington, memorial, St Cyriac's, church, Lacock, Wiltshire

The church has some wonderful features, not least the Lady Chapel and the memorial to Sir William Sharington, who purchased the adjacent Lacock Abbey in 1540.  Both retain what look like original paintwork; can you imagine what these things must have looked like when they were freshly done?  Other memorials adorn the walls, including one to Charles Edwin Awdry, who I was disappointed to discover was nothing to do with the Reverend W Awdry who wrote ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’, but was nonetheless a cricketer of some repute.  The church is also famous for its gargoyles.

Lady Chapel, ceiling, St Cyriac's, Lacock, Wiltshire

Our visit was disturbed by the arrival of about 500 people on some sort of guided tour, whose leader started to regale his flock with quite the strangest version of the history of the English Reformation I have ever heard.  Where do they find these idiots?  It irritates me that these people presumably paid good money to be told a load of codswallop by this blathering pompous fool.  Mind you, they were a rude lot themselves, so maybe they deserved it.  Battered by bags, pushed into pews and threatened with 5 foot long camera lenses, it was time to leave.  Outside, I waited behind a gravestone until Il Duce passed, threw a sack over his head, kidnapped him and left him on a remote rocky outcrop in the middle of the Atlantic where he couldn’t do any more harm.

Medieval carving, St Cyriac's, church, Lacock, Wiltshire.

After that, we went off to explore the rest of the charming village of Lacock.

Visit InSPIREd Sunday to see other places of worship from around the world.

42 comments:

  1. I was in Lacock a year ago, but completely missed out on the story of St Cyriac, I think that I must have been full to overflowing from the visit to Lackock itself as they were celebrating the 175 year anniversary of Fox Talbot's first photo.
    If you are interested Rev Awdry spent the last 32 years of his life in Rodborough, Gloucester, and the local parish church, St. Mary Magdalene, has a wonderful window dedicated to him showing Thomas the Tank Engine. The window was designed by Alfred Fisher with help from Awdry but sadly Awdry died before it was installed.
    I will endeavour to get there some time and show it on a post.

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    1. Thanks Rosemary. Rodborough's on the list - Thomas the Tank Engine is a firm favourite and just at the right intellectual level for me!

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  2. i think we've all had run-ins with Il Duce at one time or another. :-)

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  3. Include me with the group that spent more time with sinners than saints. A beautiful find Mike. Tom The Backroads Traveller

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  4. Always enjoy those old British churches surrounded by an ancient graveyard. Won't comment on the Reformation!

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    1. Well, there was obviously a downside too; everything's relative!

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  5. gorgeous!! i really enjoy the shot looking up into the sky. what a lovely day!! ( :

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  6. Another great post. I was thinking about you lately when a read that a lost Constable painting of Salisbury Cathedral was purchased at an estate sale and recently sold for millions. It's a wonderful painting and closely resembles a larger version hanging in the National Gallery.

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    1. Thanks Stephen. You thought of me because you wished that painting was mine and want me to be a millionaire? Sounds like a plan to me.

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  7. the tour sounds pretty awful. some of the images are too ornate for me and others are beautiful, like the last one. yes, a 3 yr old saint? well...

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  8. No dog saints? I've often thought it would be fun to take a tour here with a guide to see what they are saying.

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  9. Never heard of dog saints before! I do admire your sense of humor in your blog and your story about Cyriac of which I have never heard of before. Great photos!

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    1. Thanks Ruth - glad my somewhat weird humour is appreciated!

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  10. A church still with pews, a rare sight these days! As to the tour, it does make me angry when money is paid for absolute rubbish. I remember many years ago, going on a Jack the Ripper tour with some Australian friends and the guide was telling us that the Elephant Man lived on one side of the street and our Jack was very good friends with him and lived the other. He then got the victims out of order and the wrong names (not that I am an expert!) and some rubbish stories about the East End. If it wasn't so dark I would have seen him go red when I shouted out in my cockney accent 'for gawds sake you numpty' :-)

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  11. I respect old things, love beauty, dig gargoyles (which you didn't include any of) ...but you gave me a chuckle with some of your remarks. Hail Il Duce

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    1. Sorry about the lack of gargoyles - ran out of film :-) I'll try to make it up to you.

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  12. I'm not catholic but that is a neat building. I wouldn't mind looking at the sculptures, art work and cemetery if we ever get to visit. My husband and I have a lot of distant cousins in and from your beautiful country. Thank you for sharing. (Great pics too!)
    Have a blessed Sunday. ~:)

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    1. It's not catholic anymore... The village it's in is picture-postcard stuff.

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  13. I was sorry to miss visiting Lacock on our last two visits to England. There were a few things I would have liked to see there. I suppose it would be nice to miss all the tour buses that arrive to spots like this. The church is beautiful but the story of poor little Cyriac is quite tragic.

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    1. Yes - horrific tale if it's true; we'll probably never know. Tour buses are part of life - but like everything there has to be good and bad!

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  14. It is a beautiful church. I would like to visit it at a time when Il Duce wouldn't be likely to show up.

    Il Duce needs a kick in the ass, a few thousand times.

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  15. I am not a very religious person, but I must say I find a lot of beauty in these churches. Quite a find.

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  16. Memories, memories are flooding here. I went to visit Lacock with my pupils when I was a young teacher. I was so sorry I couldn't take any good pictures - but taking care of 52 pupils will do that to you! By the way, I did all the tours myself and wanted no official guide - if my pupils were told stupid things, at least I didn't notice since I was the ne saying them!
    Now, I was half willing to pray Saint Guinefort, thinking he would do as good as any others, but my cats are firmly against the idea... Any cat saint you know and they would approve off?

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    1. Well, the ancient Egyptians held cats to be sacred didn't they? and so do lots of people on Google Plus by the look of it. Saint Guinefort does amuse me!

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  17. not heard of St Cyriac before - very intriguing stories here.

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  18. Once again pointing out the difference between religion and true faith. It's not God's fault that people do such stupid things in his name. I probably said that before. Anyway, interesting post, another church I'd like to see, but I'm disappointed that you couldn't manage to tell us how you *really* felt about that tour guide. Lol

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    1. Didn't want to hold back, CM. And, yes - huge difference between religion and faith, as you and I have often mentioned. More people should remember that.

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  19. Oh my-- what a beautiful church. Can't you just imagine the stories that this church could tell! When we are on travels we are always drawn to the historic churches-- we brake for churches everywhere we go!! I share your love for these beautiful pieces of history. Your photos are wonderful -- you've truly captured the spirit of this beautiful place--
    Vicki

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    1. Thanks, Vicki - and thanks for popping by and following!

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  20. That is a beautiful church, indeed with old colorful interesting features. I have never heard of a child canonized as a saint neither dog saints.

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  21. I love your post and I always admire your graveyards when I am at your place.. They are completely different from ours.

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  22. Stunning, I like to wonder through churches both old and not so old as some are just so awesome

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  23. You seem to be unlucky in coming across these churches where the minions decend on you taken round no less it seems this time by the village idiot . Perhaps you should enlighten him or the comany he works for. Looks like a wonderful church to visit with thiose memorials.

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    1. Well, you have to allow for my natural inclination to exaggerate...

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  24. There's nothing more peaceful than a church, well, unless it's invaded by a bus load of tourist ...

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  25. What a lovely church I have completely missed it let alone the story of Cyriac on all my visits to Lacock. Next time I must look out for it ;-)

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  26. really enjoyed reading that :-)

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  27. It's not quite right to say that C.E. Awdry was 'nothing to do' with the author of Thomas the Tank Engine, as they were first cousins once removed. Yours, pedantically...

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    1. Thank you very much for that, Nick; I'll bear it mind when updating the post and moving it to the new site - www.bitaboutbritain.com - come and pay a visit.

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Hi - thanks for dropping into A Bit About Britain. New material is now being posted to www.bitaboutbritain.com and most of the material here will gradually be updated and moved over to that new site. Please drop in there, click on the blog page, and take a look round. TTFN - Mike.