St Michael & All Angels

Tucked away from its village, and next to Copford Hall, St Michael's is one of Essex's most important Norman churches, and has a remarkable collection of original wall paintings from the 1140s.

About this church

The outside gives clues to the special nature of the church. A great deal of Roman brick was used to build it; this is noticeable in the apse at the east end.

Inside, the paintings immediately claim attention, but it is worth looking at the structure of the building.

The original Norman building had a barrel vaulted nave, an exceptionally rare example in England that was replaced by the present timber structure in about 1400. Remains of the springers that held up this roof can still be clearly seen. However, the apse still has its original Norman vault. As well as making use of Roman brick, 12th century builders extending the church used bricks of their own time, one of the earliest examples in England of locally made medieval bricks.

Some of the paintings have been restored, repainted and renovated more than once, but the original scheme is intact, as is the feeling of sophistication; this is church art of the highest standard. In the apse, Christ is shown in Glory, surrounded by saints and Apostles.

The apse arch bears the signs of the zodiac, while elsewhere there is complex decorative patterning.

The 15th century screen, Norman font and gilded Hanoverian Royal arms are outshone by the paintings, but merit generous praise.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Glorious furnishings

Visitors information

  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Parking within 250m
  • Accessible toilets nearby
  • Dog friendly
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Space to secure your bike

Other nearby churches

St Mary the Virgin

Here the church goes with the house, or rather tower, for the outstanding feature of Layer Marney Tower is the huge brick gatehouse built by Sir Henry Marney, who became the first Lord Marney.

St Barnabas

St Barnabas church in Great Tey is a beautiful building, standing prominently in the centre of the village in a well kept churchyard containing a considerable number of Georgian and early Victorian headstones and tombs.

St Mary at the Wall

The former church St Mary at the Walls (now Colchester Arts Centre) is built against the Roman Walls and overlooking the south western corner of the old walled town of Colchester.

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