Torpenhow – St Michael’s Church
The Church of St Michael at Torpenhow was built in 1120. Of the 98 churches built in the 12th Century, only six remain unspoilt, Torpenhow being one of these. Most of the early building remains – and some of the stone that can be seen inside would have been brought from the Great Roman Camp of Old Carlisle. The architect responsible for the 1913 restoration said he found distinct traces of a Saxon building.
The magnificent chancel arch is undoubtably the most noteworthy feature of the original building, and is a fine example of its type and date, and is profusely ornamented in an individualist manner. There are demon like intertwined figures in dark red sandstone on the north, the side of darkness, and human and animal figures in light sandstone on the south side – suggesting a sermon in stone.
Another interesting feature is the nave ceiling, adorned with flowers and gildings, all painted at the time of Rubens. The ceiling panels are thought to have come from London, where they covered the hall of one of the Livery Companies in the City. The Norman bowl of the font has interlaced arches with mythical carvings, and stands on a shaft dating from the 15th Century and which bears heraldic devices.
There are several stained glass windows, mostly by Clayton and Bell, with one in the North aisle showing Jesus stilling the storm on Galilee. The choir stalls were put in in 1882, and are good examples of the wood-carver’s art.
Aerial photo by Simon Ledingham.
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