Getting in touch with the history of a city is often times easiest when viewed through a stained glass window – if you’re looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of the High Street, then take a tour of Bristol’s most ancient and awe inspiring churches …
St Mary Redcliffe Church
Described by Queen Elizabeth I as ‘The fairest, goodliest, and most famous parish church in England’, the gothic splendor of St Mary Redcliffe Church cannot be over stated – the first church on this site was likely constructed during Saxon times, when Bristol first became a strategic port city. As its name might suggest, the church is situated atop a red cliff above the River Avon.
In medieval times, its towering presence was a comfort to seafarers who said prayers to the Virgin Mary upon departure and gave thanks upon their safe return.
The present building is likely the fourth or fifth church that has been built on this site, and parts of the existing church date back to the early 12th century.
Unfortunately this once beautiful church (with a rather colourful past) was heavily bombed during World War II. The ruins of Temple Church now stand in rather stark contrast the surrounding contemporary architecture.
However, Temple Church is probably best known for hosting the sensational 1778 exorcism of George Lukins, who was said to be possessed by 7 demons.
Nonetheless, a walk among the remaining walls allows visitors to take step back in time to the world of the Knights Templar who founded the church in the mid 12th century.
Open tours are given on Saturdays for those interested to learn a bit more of the history of Bristol Cathedral, which dates back to 1148 when Robert Fitzhardinge founded it as the Abbey of St. Augustine. The impressive cathedral is most certainly worth a visit, if for no other reason than to hear its beautiful organ, originally built in 1685. Pop in on any Tuesday during term time for a free lunchtime recital and a chance to hear the stunning acoustics of this grand Cathedral.
St James Priory
It was illegitimate grandson of William the Conqueror, Robert Fitzroy, who founded the Priory of St James in 1129.
Local legend has it that every 10th stone brought from Normandy to build the great Norman castle was set aside to build the Priory, making it Bristol’s oldest building still in use today.
This modest priory has continuously served as a place of worship for nearly 900 years.
Church of England Mortuary Chapel
Located in the idyllic Arnos Vale Cemetery, this Grade II listed neoclassical chapel is certainly a peaceful place of rest on the cemetery grounds.
While wandering amongst graves may not be everyone’s cup of tea, this gorgeous green expanse just outside of Bristol is a favourite amongst dog walkers, ramblers and history buffs alike.
While you’re strolling past the many graves in a state of picturesque disrepair, don’t miss the opulent Tomb of Raja Rammohun Roy. And if you’re looking for a hotel in Bristol this winter, consider a stay at the Holiday Inn Bristol Filton hotel for a convenient, great value accommodation option.