English Churches - Northumberland

St Mary's Church, Holy Island


Adjacent to the ruins of Lindisfarne Priory, and the oldest building on Holy Island


There has been a church here since C7th when St Aidan established a monastery on Holy Island. This had two churches. The larger and more easterly St Peter’s Church was the monastery church. The smaller westerly church of St Mary would have served the wider community which grew up around the Priory.

St Mary's Church, Holy Island

St Mary’s was originally built of wood but was later replaced by stone. The remains of the Saxon arch can be made out above the chancel arch. The north aisle and north arcade date from the late C12th. The rest of the church was rebuilt in the C13th, when a long narrow chancel replaced the Saxon apse.

St Mary's Church, Holy Island

After the Dissolution of the monasteries, St Mary’s continued as the parish church. The buttressed bell turret is Georgian and was added in the early C18th.

St Mary's Church, Holy Island

There was a major restoration in the C19th. 

In the graveyard at the east end of the church is the remains of the base of a Saxon cross.

St Mary's Church, Holy Island


Inside, it is a simple but attractive church with a Norman north arcade with round pillars and round arches and a later south arcade with octagonal pillars and pointed arches. The arches are picked out in bands of different coloured stone. Above is a timber roof. The remains of the Saxon arch can be made out above the chancel arch. There is a small rectangular window above the chancel arch. Pews and pulpit are from the C19th restoration.

St Mary's Church, Holy Island


St Mary's Church, Holy Island

At the back of the nave is a stone font with a modern wooden lid with a carving of a child reaching out to a dove.

St Mary's Church, Holy Island

The long narrow chancel feels bare as most of the choir stalls have been removed. At the far end is a simple table altar. The modern reredos on the east wall has the Crucifixion at the centre with Northumbrian saints and the Virgin. The carpet in front of the altar has a Celtic design similar to those seen in the Lindisfarne Gospels.

St Mary's Church, Holy Island

There are funeral hatchments on the chancel walls and a old stone grave slab behind the priests chair.

St Mary's Church, Holy Island

St Mary's Church, Holy Island

Kneelers have a Celtic cross design.

St Mary's Church, Holy Island

The organ is at the end of the south aisle. This contains a large elm sculpture ‘The Journey” with six monks carrying St Cuthbert’s coffin.

St Mary's Church, Holy Island

The north aisle is known as the fisherman’s aisle. The altar is dedicated to St Peter and has two crossed keys on the front. Draped around it is fishing net with small fishes caught in it.

St Mary's Church, Holy Island

Stained glass windows are C19th apart from the lovely lancet window in the north wall of the chancel with images of Holy Island and the two windows at the west end of the two side aisles.

St Mary's Church, Holy Island         St Mary's Church, Holy Island

This is a very attractive church and is always busy with visitors to the island. The church is open daily and the nearest post code is TD15 2RX. The grid reference is NU 126418.

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