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St Mary the Virgin

    The Norman church at Copford deserves be better known on account of its splendid 12th wall paintings which reflect the generous patronage of its medieval owners, the Bishops of London. The church itself consists of an apsed chancel and nave which has a later medieval south aisle. There are copious quantities of Roman tile in the walls, presumably from a nearby ruined building. The roof of the nave and chancel originally had a tunnel vault, a very rare feature in an English church of the Norman period. The nave door on the north side is thought to be original and according to legend the skin of a pagan Viking was once nailed on to it!

The wall paintings (restored in 1872 and again in the 1930s) date to 1140-50. They include, in the apse, Christ in Glory within a circle supported by angels and there are apostles below them at window level. A variety of ornamental designs may be seen in the apse windows. On the underside of the arch between apse and chancel are the signs of the zodiac and virgo has a halo, thereby alluding to the church's dedication. There are other painted scenes on the nave walls.


Pevsner, N., 1965. The Buildings of England, Essex (London, Penguin, 2nd ed. revised by E. Radcliffe), 149-50
Tristram, E.W., and Montagu Benton, G., 1933. 'Copford church and its wall paintings', Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society, 21.1