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Wilton,  Wiltshire  -  St Mary and St Nicholas Church
19th Century

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Notes in italics from Wiltshire by Nikolaus Pevsner Revised by Bridget Cherry (1975) Yale University Press, New Haven and London


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Built in 1841-5 by Thomas Henry Wyatt & D. Brandon for the Rt Hon. Sidney Herbert, Secretary of War at a cost of 20,000.  The church is a tour de force in the Rundbogenstil, the round-arch style, to use a German term for a style revived particularly in Germany ... It had a vogue in England in the forties ... The term 'round-arch style'  is appropriate; for it could take the shape of Early Christian, Byzantine, Italian Romanesque, or indeed Norman. At Wilton we are faced with the Italian Romanesque. The symptoms are unmistakable: twisted columns in the main portal standing on recumbent lions; friezes below the eaves climbing up and down them in the facade; a big rose window; an isolated campanile. The basilican appearance on the other hand is generally Early Christian to Italian Romanesque ...
The church is not set in the usual east-west axis of English churches but southwest-northeast. 



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The campanile is connected with the church by a playful little gallery of richly decorated colonnettes. Rich also is the carving of the portals.

The apse is lower than the chancel, has shafts reaching right up it, and incidentally faces the green of the estate.



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The interior is certainly monumental, with its erect proportions and open timber roof. The proud columns have capitals carved by William Osmond Jun. of Salisbury. Above them a kind of triforium, of eight little arches for each bay, not at all an archaeologically correct motif. The chancel is divided from the nave by very tall black marble columns. It is groin-vaulted. There are also chancel aisles ending in apses. Their W arches have black columns too, and they are original ancient Roman pieces from the Temple of Venus at Porto Venere (C2 B.C.). ...



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Very Italian-style mosaics in the apse.  Heavy W gallery forming two sham 'ambones'  round the first columns. ... The NW doorway has thick black barley-sugar columns. ... 


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The pulpit stands on a forest of black marble columns with excellently carved capitals. The upper colonnettes are .. of Cosmati work (twisted columns with stone mosaic - these and others in the church may come from the Shrine of Capoccio of 1256 in the Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome).

Much of the stained glass is old, dating from the 12th-17th centuries and coming from France, Germany, the Netherlands, as well as England.

 

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