St. Mary Redcliffe & Dancing Light.

Friday, October 10, 2014

So...I'm a bit of a church-snob.

Not in the I'll hit you with my Bible and pray for you type of way (jokes), but that I've been very spoiled to have visited some of the most gorgeous churches in the world and have therefore become difficult to impress.

I strongly recall my mom having to practically drag me to St. Patricks' Cathedral in NYC. I grudgingly went along and barely lifted an eyebrow at the stunning Neo-Gothic architecture shoved into the middle of Manhattan. "I mean I've seen the Vatican so this really isn't thaaaat cool..."

*Rolls eyes* Bratty teenager alert much? And I was probably hungry...

Since then, I've learned to be a bit more appreciative of the fact that I am so lucky to travel as much as I have and am better at "oooh-ing and ahh-ing" where appropriate.

This week, I took advantage of my off day and the wavering sunny U.K. weather and visited St. Mary Redcliffe Church over in the Redcliffe district.

Nestled between a few buzzing roads, it's easy enough to find thanks to the spire reaching for the sky, making it the tallest building in Bristol. Upon walking in though the inner porch – the oldest part of the church, built in 1185 (!!), you are greeted with two friendly faces offering a short guide.

Hellooooo up there, you are very difficult to take a proper photo of....

The double-sided guide includes a labeled layout of the church leading you through like a maze. The paragraphs accompanying it correspond with the numbers on the layout, making it simple to follow along. There are fascinating bits scattered throughout, and it's easy to miss some of the I walked through it twice! But I'm also a fast walker...

Thanks to the temperamental weather (this day was a bit of everything, so my DSLR once again stayed nice and dry in my flat), I was treated with one of my favorite parts about visiting a church. The light. The way the sun pokes its way in and out of the clouds makes light dance between the pews, awakens the intricate walls, and colors burst throughout the nave. It makes every detail shine a little brighter and feel a bit more magical.

No saturation adjustment here, this is all natural baby.

More dancing courtesy of Mr. Sun.

That, and my new BFF Ann, made me absolutely fall in love with this church.

Ann was one of the kind volunteers who is parked at the entrance, just in front of the modest gift shop. She asked where I was from in order to log my visit into their book, and as I was speaking with the sweet man also stationed at the desk (who's name I frustratingly can't remember), one of my responses included "Yes sir" – as any good Southerner does, and Ann practically hugged me! She patted my back with a smile and went on and on about how she appreciates good manners and asked if I wanted to see her favorite part of the church.

Umm, yes please!

She took my arm and we walked towards the back of the nave, passing Sir William Penn's armor mounted to the wall, and came to the back wall, covered in a large blue velvet curtain. Still grinning ear to ear, she pulled the ropes to push the fabric aside and revealed the giant double doors taking up the height of half the wall, including a very tiny door that couldn't have been more than 5 feet tall. She squealed and made a comment about how short they must have been back in the day. I coincidentally love doors – they're one of my favorite things to take pictures of, so this was quite the treat for me.

Proof that something simple like good manners can get you places.

Tip: If you're planning a visit and want a picture of the full church free of light poles and traffic signs (which are cluttering my attempt...), head to the North East side of the building from across the street so you can snap a picture like this one. I discovered this a little too late as I came in from the West, but I'm sure I'll be back.

Entry is free, but donations are encouraged.

What's your favorite church/cathedral/temple/etc. you've visited? Or, any that you dream of visiting? 

Hagia Sophia, Sagrada Família, and Saint Basil's Cathedral are at the top of my list!

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