Day out: Hailes Church

15 Sep


Another small and almost tender small spot to visit, close to Sudeley Castle and only a few steps away from Hailes Abbey.  These small churches — like Odda’s Chapel or Elkstone Church — have an emotive appeal that transcends their size and relative lack of fame.

Hailes Church sits quietly between cemetery, parking lay-by, and agricultural fields.  The exterior looks small and tidy:


The church was built in the 12th century by a local lord, attached to a local castle which was eventually taken over by Henry III, then ceded to his brother Richard of Gloucester, who founded the nearby Cistercian Hailes Abbey  in the mid 13th century.  The Church then acted as the gate-chapel for the Abbey, used by visitors and pilgrims.  It is still a functioning church.  Which kind of blows my mind.  Read more about the history of the Church here:

What I found most amazing — almost shockingly amazing — are the medieval wall paintings:

A hunting scene, with greyhounds and a rabbit.  A local lord and benefactor, immortalized?  An obscure christian metaphor?  All I know for sure is the delicate tracery of these paintings will not last forever, and need to be preserved and renovated.  Where was that million dollars I had stashed away in my kitchen cupboards?

Because St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers and anyone who feared an unconfessed death and the visitor’s first view when entering the church, needs our help.  He’s mostly ghost, already.


For reasons unknown to me, there is a pail full of smooth stones near the entry.  Perhaps travelers along the Cotswold Way leave a stone to commemorate this stage in their journey?  An offering to ask for pebble-free shoes along the way?  Or maybe something as simple as new stones for the flowerbeds?

Turn to the right and see the Church in its entirety.  (To the right, a parishioner is tidying up the benches and altar.)  Almost elegant in its extreme simplicity, but age has worn down all the clean and clear lines and left meandering wrinkles and bumps.

Which makes me think of vampires.  I’m weird that way.  But, what a scene.

Walk through to the chancel and check out the 15th century window.

Painted frieze in the chancel (near the altar), showing the twelve apostles.



Here’s the smart and high-class (and very very dead) St. Catherine of Alexandria.  She turned down a handsy Emperor, outwitted all the guys in a philosophical debate, rode a spiked wheel (but not for fun) and was beheaded.  Yup, that’s my patron saint!  Rock it, chica.The altar itself, with its humble cloth.  I almost fainted when I saw all the colorful, medieval, hand made stone tiles.  These are not original to the Church, but were removed from Hailes Abbey during the dissolution of the monasteries and laid out here in somewhat random fashion.

Just take my word for it: this is completely amazing.

What would have stood in these recesses by the chancel door, I wonder?  Statuary, flowers, people, candles?

This grumpy owl would have looked over it all.  (He might as well be grumpy, he represents sin and darkness.  Poor thing.)

To one side of the altar, surrounded by more of those tiles, a medieval tomb.  Who wants to go all Indiana Jones and open it?

With the door behind you, owl to the left, tomb to the right, this is your view over the altar toward St. Catherine.  There’s a lovely hush in the Church, but it is small enough to feel intimate.

Walk out over stone memorials, between rough wooden benches …

And return to the modern world, and sunshine.  (And, on this particular day, a stunning stroll through Hailes Abbey .. but that’s a story for another day.)
















5 Responses to “Day out: Hailes Church”

  1. satnavandcider September 15, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    Wow! I had no idea. Thanks for sharing so much history and personal insights. I really enjoyed the tour.

    • Monique September 16, 2012 at 8:00 am #

      I had good company when I visited. 😉

  2. Andrea September 15, 2012 at 1:06 pm #


    • Monique September 16, 2012 at 8:00 am #

      It really is. Thanks!


  1. Day out: Hailes Abbey « Crumpets in Camelot - October 3, 2012

    […] English Heritage site near Sudeley Castle and steps away from Hailes Church, Hailes Abbey is worth a visit in its own right or as part of a longer day of touring near […]

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