They say that it’s easy to travel the world – or even your own country – admiring other peoples cultures, buildings and way of life, and never seeing the beauty on your own doorstep. For me, that’s very true when it comes to St. Michael and All Angels church, at Copford just outside Colchester.
Simon Jenkins ranked the church in the ‘Top 100′ in his book “England’s Thousand Best Churches”, and Pevsner in his “Buildings of Essex” described it as “the most remarkable Norman parish church in the county.”
Having finally paid the church a visit I can understand why they were so enamoured with it. It’s a pretty little Norman church set away from the hustle and bustle of modern life, It’s surrounded by woodland, where bluebells grow in the spring. The churchyard is the quintessential English churchyard, full of daffodils on my visit in early spring, and poignantly for 2014 as we mark the centenary of the 1st World War there’s a war grave for a soldier who died during battle in the war.
But its the inside of the church that is so striking. There are beautiful wall paintings that have survived the Reformation, and the Victorian’s well-meaning attempts to restore them in the nineteenth century. They are very rare in this country, as most of our medieval churches had their wall-paintings covered up during the Reformation. I could imagine the wonder of the people in the medieval period, when they visited the church. Most were unable to read or write, and had no access to art. So a visit to church was the one time when they could see art on such a grand scale, and see before them the stories and the people from the bible.
The church is very active and regular services are held. However, at the time of writing it is kept locked at all other times because of a spate of thefts. I visited as part of an organised group outing. If you are interested in visiting the church you need to contact one of the many people who are involved in the care of the church. It’s really is worth making the effort to visit it.