St. Mary’s Church, Redcliffe

Once upon a time, before cars were around and it took three days to travel from one side to the other of modern-day Bristol, Redcliffe was its own thriving port town next to the busy city of Bristol. History notes that there was a lot of rivalry between these two cities (for age-old reasons too numerous and odd to recite here). However, in 2019 Redcliffe is just a part of Bristol, sort of a neighbourhood area marginated on the edge of the river. We’ve driven through and around the area countless times.

One building Redcliffe is famous for is St. Mary’s Church. Its spire is the tallest building in Bristol (at 90m). While we’ve driven past and admired it many times, we’ve never gone in. I was at a charity shop a few weeks ago and found this awesome ink sketch dated 1940 and picked it up. It now hangs in our front hall.

So now it was on our ‘to-do’ list of places to get to, things to explore.

We learned a lot. St. Mary’s was the church where merchant sailors would began and end their journeys, praying at the shrine of Our Lady of Redcliffe.

John Cabot came to St. Mary’s upon his return from his renowned sail to America where he discovered Newfoundland. (There’s a big main road here called Newfoundland Rd, too). He presented St Mary Redcliffe with a whale bone from his journey. It still hangs there today, 500+ years later.

The whale bone is to the right, directly above Sophie’s head.

Beside Sophie is a statue of Queen Elizabeth I, who visited St Mary’s Redcliffe and described it as “the fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in England”.

In 1997, five-hundred years after Cabot first set sail Eastward, a replica of his ship The Matthew sailed from Bristol on the same journey to commemorate it. The crew of the second Matthew gathered at St Mary’s Redcliffe right before they set sail to pray for a safe journey and receive blessing.

Model of The Matthew over the door of the Church

Here’s some photos of this gorgeous gothic church:

Then we stumbled upon a neat science experiment, right there in the Church, The Chaotic Pendulum.

There were a lot of notes about the building through history since it was built, about various wars and conflicts that threatened the entire structure. Most notable was the Bristol Blitz in WWII. Because Bristol was a hub for both aviation and shipping, it was a prime target for the Nazis and was the 5th most heavily bombed British city in the war. St. Mary’s Redcliffe was right on the flight path of the German Luftwaffe and suffered some minor damage.

During one large raid on Good Friday, April 11, 1941, a huge bomb hit only a block away, and a large chunk of tramline was thrown from the blast over the rooftops of nearby houses and landed in the churchyard. It’s been left there since, as a reminder of how close a call the church had and of how senseless war is.

We enjoyed touring St. Mary’s, exploring a little part of our new hometown, and are happy that we’ve now seen the building behind our lovely hallway picture.

PS- Happy Thanksgiving to all those back home in Canada celebrating this weekend! We miss you! We’re doing a roast chicken and all the trimmings this weekend, and I made Nanaimo bars for dessert and to share with the neighbours. Have a fab turkey day!!!

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