A Tour of St Mary the Virgin, Iffley, Oxford

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This blog post is on the church of St. Mary the Virgin, Iffley in Oxford, quite possibly the finest Romanesque parish church in all of England. The building dates from the late twelfth century and has been subject to remarkably little change.

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The west facade of the church is quite simply breath-taking, with beautiful rows of chevrons and beakheads carvings in the doorway. Above the doorway is a circular window, which dates from the Victorian period, with three arched windows at the top.

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The chevrons and beakheads on the doorway are encircled by an outer layer of carvings with figures representing the signs of the Zodiac and the Evangelists.

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The south doorway rivals the west doorway in splendour due to the excellent quality of the carvings.

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The level of detail on the carvings is amazing, with images of all manner of mythical beasts, including centaurs, dragons, serpents and birds, as well as two knights locked in combat.

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The north doorway by contrast is far plainer but still has an attractive appearance.

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Inside the building it is striking how high and long the church is, with the furnishings inside the nave including a large font of Tournai marble and an organ.

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The chancel dates from the thirteenth century, with fine carvings on the archway and vaulting (including a fabulous decorated boss) and also a sedilia. This part of the church is well known due to its association with Annora, an anchoress from a wealthy background.

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Iffley is mostly Romanesque or Early English in form but also includes some nice Perpendicular windows (most of the stained glass is modern).

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For further information see, Mark Phythian-Adams, The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Iffley: A History and Guide (2018)

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