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St Mary's Church (Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk)

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St Mary's Church in Bury St Edmund's, Suffolk.

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      21.09.2012 11:29
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      A charming church

      When on a weekend break in the beautiful old town of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, my friend and I stopped to have a look at St Mary's Church, on Honey Hill near the centre of the town. We hadn't planned to come here, we were just going to look at the cathedral but it was closed due to a graduation ceremony. However, we were so glad we did in the end as it is a stunning church.

      The original part of the church is 900 years old but was expanded in the fifteenth century making it one of the largest parish churches in England. It is also one of the more interesting, in my opinion.

      The nave is apparently 213 feet (65m), which is quite some length and is no doubt a big hit with brides in a long train. One of my favourite features were the Victorian pew-ends. They are mostly fleur-de-lys shaped and each one is unique. The church also had some lovely stained glass windows, especially the one behind the alter and one other over to the right, which I will come back to.

      The church also has a number of interesting tombs. The tomb of John Barat (a town benefactor) is particularly interesting in that the carving of his body is done as skin and bone. It probably isn't the most attractive tomb you will ever see but it is pretty distinctive. Admittedly I had not heard of most of the people who have tombs or memorials here, but there was one I had heard of and I was very excited to discover it. In one corner, behind the alter if the tomb of a Tudor Queen. As a bit of a Tudor geek I was thrilled to discover this, as one would normally expect to see a high ranking member of the royal family to interred somewhere more significant than the parish church of a relatively small market town. Mary Tudor was Henry VIII's favourite sister and the wife (and subsequent widow) of the King of France (hence her status as a Queen). She was later the Duchess of Suffolk, and although she died too young to know she was also aunt to three reigning monarchs and grandmother of another (albeit briefly - Lady Jane Grey). The tomb is very modest, at the back behind the alter and could easily be missed. Queen Victoria donated a stained glass window that depicted Mary's life as Queen of France and return to England which is also a favourite of mine.

      The church is free to enter and they do sell a few little books and postcards. Obviously you can make donations which is what we did, thinking this beautiful church was well worth it.

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