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St Michael and All Angels

Copford Green,

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

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St Michael and All Angels

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Off Aldercar Road, between Copford Green & Copford

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