Most churches have stained glass windows, but few can rival those of St Laurence’s Church in Ludlow, Shropshire. Laurence’s sits in a prominent position in the centre of the historic town of Ludlow. The church tower can be seen for miles around.
I have been to Ludlow many times, but I had not been to St Laurence’s Church, an icon of Ludlow, for years. So, with a couple of hours to spare one sunny morning this month, I decided to visit.
St Laurence’s is known as ‘the Cathedral of the Marches’ and is the largest parish church in Shropshire. There is much to see at St Laurence’s Church, but it was the windows which took my interest on this visit. There are so many to see, and each has its own unique details and story to tell.
The West window features 11 men, each with a connection to the town’s history. They include Roger of Montgomery, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury (the biggest landowner in Shropshire at the time of the Doomsday Book); Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York (he inherited the Lordship of Ludlow from his uncle, Edmund Mortimer, and was father of both Edward IV and Richard III); King Edward IV (he was crowned King after winning the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross near Ludlow); King Edward V (son of Edward IV, he was raised at Ludlow Castle with his brother, and the boys are both believed to have been murdered on the order of their uncle King Richard III, among other theories); and Arthur, Prince of Wales (he lived at Ludlow Castle and his heart was buried in the church).
The ‘Ladies window’ situated in the north aisle came to be named because it was funded by the Ladies Committee during the 1859-60 restoration. Women also feature prominently in the scenes which it depicts from the New Testament: the presentation in the temple, the miracle at Cana, Martha and Mary, and the women at the tomb.
Standing in the chancel of St Laurence’s, you cannot fail to be amazed by the panoramic view of its amazing stained glass windows. The main window, the Great East window, may have been mostly remade between 1828 – 1832, but it is a masterpiece of medieval art. The amount of panels, the staggering detail, the over 300 figures, angels and archangels, and it being believed to have dated back to 1445, is just truly stunning. I could have stood there all day taking in its detail.
Situated in the Lady Chapel, The Jesse Tree window originates from around 1300 but was restored in 1890 using as much of the original glass as possible. Perhaps best seen when backlit by the early morning sunlight.
St Laurence’s still holds regular services and is also used as an entertainment venue for recitals, concerts and other events. I find it sad that St Laurence’s pews have been removed in favour of movable seating, though I can see why they chose to do it. Church pews, whilst inherently uncomfortable, are part of its character.
Another wonderful feature of St Laurence’s is its wood carvings, in particular the Misericords. A common feature in churches and cathedrals, misericords are medieval choir stall seats which were designed to be raised during services. A small ledge protruding from the seat could be used to lead against should the choice member tire during a service.
There is so much more to see and discover at St Laurence’s Church in Ludlow, far more than can be covered in one blog post. If you’re ever in the area, I wholeheartedly recommend a visit.