Killmartin Grave Slabs, Scotland

The information board invites you to step into this burial aisle for a glimpse of the Gaelic warrior culture that dominated the West Highlands in the Middle Ages….. and so we did, last May 2016.  Kilmartin is a small village in Western Scotland, famous for Kilmartin Glen, where there are over 320 prehistoric monuments in a six mile radius.  But for me, the graveyard of the village church holds untold stories of buried Highlanders, which got my imagination working overtime.  These grave slabs were collected from the graveyard, but there are still more grave slabs to be seen.  There are also historic crosses inside the church and next door you will find a museum that will tell you the story of the Glen.  This post is to show the grave slabs, that now stand side by side.

A little history for you……..Originally, the 23 stones would have been laid flat on the ground to cover a grave. After the Reformation, however, many of the stones were moved, and in 1956 they were moved inside a shelter to protect them from the weather. The symbolism of the motifs carved onto the slabs is the subject of much discussion and speculation. Many feature swords or claymores, some alone, others with surrounding designs of twining or interlaced foliage. Several depict armed men. 

The structure was originally built as a burial aisle for Neil Campbell and his wife Christiane in 1627. Neil Campbell became Bishop of Argyll, while Christiane was the daughter of Bishop John Carswell, who built nearby Carnasserie Castle in the late 1660s. Since 1956 their mausoleum has served as a lapidarium, sheltering the best of the medieval graveslabs identified in the churchyard.

More about Kilmartin to follow.


Street Photos – Stamford, Lincolnshire

I love visiting Stamford in Lincolnshire, a beautiful little town, lovely small individual shops, plus a great second hand bookshop, nice eateries and the best bit…..five Medieval churches.  I can never pass by St John’s Church with its amazing roof angels, always hoping for the most spectacular angel photo ever 🙂   Stamford has now entered another category that I love to photograph ‘ Black & White Street Photographs’  On our last visit but one, Oct 2017, I thought I would try and get the churches in each view that I took, I got three churches, one brewery and a residential road, not bad.

Hope you all had a lovely Easter Sunday, even if is just a holiday for you…we have had rain, so what’s new 🙂

Church of Ognissanti, Florence, Italy

Last year, 2016, we visited Florence, Italy, it wasn’t a particularly nice day, but what amazed me was the amount of people there were, I actually thought that in October, it would have been quieter, got that wrong.  It didn’t help that we got lost once we left the train station, we walked for ages until we worked out that we were totally going in the wrong direction, we cut through some back streets to the river and then realised where we should be.  But if we hadn’t got lost we would have missed the beautiful church of Ognissanti (All Saints).  Not a large church, but it was open, it was free and the best thing of all……you could take photos, as long as you didn’t use a flash.  After all the closed and photo forbidden churches in Venice…. I was going to photograph every inch of it.  

The Church of Ognissanti is a Franciscan church and Sandro Botticelli is buried here, which I didn’t know until I got home and carried out some research.  

A little history…. I added the information boards at the bottom of the post….The original church was completed in 1257, but was almost completely rebuilt in the baroque style in 1627.  There is a beautiful blue terracotta glazed lunette, over the entrance, in the style of della Robbia, but the artist was actually Benedetto Buglioni. There are frescoes by Ghirlandiao and Botticelli in the church. 

Below is Giotto’s Crucifix which dates from the 1320’s, which has been carefully restored over eight years.   It was a lovey surprise to see it shine in the darkness, so very beautiful.  

Giotto’s Crucifix

Some information I found………….Formerly in the sacristy for 84 years, Giotto’s monumental Crucifix is back in the Florentine church for which it was painted in 1310-1315, after a careful 8-year long restoration by the Opificio delle Pierre Dure, which has restored the luminosity and brilliance of its colours and glazes, its volumes and its modelling.

The Ognissanti Crucifix was a neglected Italian treasure which a team of experts have now repaired and identified.  After long being attributed to a relative or school of the early Renaissance artist Giotto, the Ognissanti crucifix is now believed to be the work of the 14th-century Italian himself.  The painted cross, which hangs in the Ognissanti church in Florence, underwent extensive cleaning by the local restoration lab Opificio delle Pietre Dure.  The project was led by art historian Marco Ciatti, who has concluded that the crucifix is a Giotto masterpiece dating from the 1320s.

The majestic tempera on panel realised by Giotto and his workshop around 1310-1320 had been sadly neglected for centuries.  Kept in the sacristy of the church of Ognissanti, it was rarely seen and the vigorous modelling of the flesh tones of the figures, and the many precious details of the pictorial surface, were hidden by a severely altered layer due to a treatment of the past and century-old grime. The restoration of Giotto’s Ognissanti Crucifix was started by Paola Bracco in 2002.
The crucifix is situated in a chapel to the left of the transept. The crucifix was originally located above the rood screen in the transept of the Ognissanti church, but this no longer exists.

The church seems small inside, with no aisles, and compressed almost for being very densely decorated. Vertigo-inducing trompe l’oeil architectural ceiling painting by Giuseppe Benucci.  When you look at the ceiling at different angles, it seemed to move.  The ceiling seems a lot higher than it is, and it looks like the angel is about to fly from the balcony, which is really flat against the ceiling, so very clever.

St Jerome in his Study, fresco by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1480.  Unfortunately I have no idea who painted the rest of the frescos, but I love the little round ceiling with the angels.  I will let the photos continue the tour of this amazing church that we were lucky to find.

Denny Abbey, Cambridgeshire, Upper Level


This is the last post on this amazing building, Denny Abbey, visited 2016, and its really only, when you climb the stairs that you can really see what is left of the Templar Church.  We can now see the alterations that the Countess of Pembroke made, she was given Denny by King Edward III.  The Countess brought the Poor Clares, Franciscan nuns, here around 1339.  She made the original church into her own apartment, adding a floor, and then built a new church, a refectory (visited in a previous post) in 1330, a dormitory for 40 nuns, cloisters, and other buildings.  The Countess died in 1377 and was buried in the Abbey.  Life continued at the Abbey until the Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1539 and two years later Denny Abbey closed.  The Abbey was sold and became a farm, the building was more like a house, after the alterations, so it was easy to just add an extension, change a few windows and plaster a few walls to hide the old church.  Look and see how small doors were made from large arches, what is left of windows and skeleton of the building….. is the Abbey, hidden for centuries, but still there.


A couple of examples of medieval graffiti that I found on the walls.

Village Sign & Church, St Nicholas, Potter Heigham, Norfolk

 Potter Heigham (pronouced Potterham) in Norfolk has had a new village sign. a two sided one.  What is nice, is that the sign depicts two sides of the village and on both sides, the medieval bridge is shown.

Potter Heigham Bridge is a medieval bridge, believed to date from 1385, famous for being the most difficult to navigate in the Broads.  The bridge opening is so narrow that only small cruisers can pass through it, and then only at low water.  We have visited Potter Hingham many times, but I have never seen a boat going under the bridge, maybe one day.

The church is St Nicholas and has a 12th century round tower (which I still have to post about)  and the font is the only brick one in Norfolk.  It appears to be 15th century, there are banded details which have eroded, but may have been trefoils.  

The potters on the sign………The village was just simply named Heigham, but the extensive manufacture of Roman pottery taking place in the ‘Pothills’ area in the very northwestern corner of the parish.  By 1797 the village had become known as Potter Heigham, though the marshes retained the older Heigham Potter name.

Looking at the other side of the sign, which indicates Hickling Board, where you can fish, walk, cruise on the water and really enjoy the outdoor life.

St Peters Church Tower, Bastwick, Norfolk


We had driven through Potter Heigham in Norfolk in March 2016, looking for the Parish Church, and totally missed it.  Husband did not really want to turn back, as the weather looked like it was about to turn quite nasty.  I agreed with him, the church could wait until another day…… but could we go and have a look at a church tower that I had just spied over in a field…..there was a deep sigh, but he agreed.

We drove around to where I thought we might be able to visit the tower, but then realised it’s on private land……in someones back garden.  I knew nothing about the church, only that we were in the village of Bastwick.  So after some investigation, I only found a very small amount about the church, but I did out that the cottage and tower had been up for sale.  I found a little bit on the website, ‘The flint tower which stands in the grounds, was originally the tower to St Peter’s church. The church was built during the time of Edward the Confessor, in the 11th century. A stone christening font and a cross base, with apostles standing on either side, remain in the grounds’.

From the little that I found out about the church…… the church was in ruins by 1618, although the webpage says the church was 11th century, it seems that the tower is 14th century…..I think if the tower was 11th century, it would have been round.  But it was a nice find, and I just wonder if this is is the new owner in the below photo, pottering about the garden.

Denny Abbey Exterior, Cambridgeshire

To carry on with our visit in 2016 to Denny Abbey and Farmland Museum, we come to a building that I found absolutely fascinating, the Abbey.  A building where it’s true nature had remained hidden for centuries, in the guise of an old farmhouse.  Its a story of how a building survived since the 12th century, through to the late 1960’s.  

Travelling back in time….. as with other Fenland monasteries, Denny was originally an island in a low-lying marsh.  The area was used as a farm as early as the Roman period, and there is evidence of a raised causeway built by the Romans.  It is thought that the Romans farmed the site between the 2nd and 4th centuries.

Below is what could be Roman causeway and which was used as a busy byway in Medieval times and formed the main entrance to the Abbey.

A brief history……Having been occupied at various times by three different monastic orders.  Founded in 1159 as a Benedictine monastery, in 1170 it was taken over by the Knights Templars and used as a home for aged and infirm members of the order.  After the Templars’ suppression for alleged heresy in 1308, it became a convent of Franciscan nuns known as the Poor Clares.  Following the dissolution of the nunnery in 1539 by Henry VIII, and was later transformed into a farmhouse.

We have the Countess of Pembroke to thank for what we are about to see, she was given Denny by King Edward III.  The Countess brought the Poor Clares, Franciscan nuns, here around 1339.  She made the original church into her own apartment, adding a floor, and then built a new church, a refectory (visited in a previous post) in 1330, a dormitory for 40 nuns, cloisters, and other buildings.  The Countess died in 1377 and was buried in the Abbey.  Life continued at the Abbey until the Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1539 and two years later Denny Abbey closed.


  Edward Elrington, an Essex property speculator, was given the Abbey by Henry and he dismantled parts of the buildings and then sold the stone. But as the Abbey was able to be converted into a farmhouse, due to the Countess conversions in the 1300’s,  it was saved, unlike other Abbeys that were reduced to ruins.  The farmhouse was lived in by many tenants over the years.   Tudor chimneys and fireplaces were later additions, and, still later, plumbing was added.  The farm was lived in up until the late 1960’s.  

Before we step inside, lets have a look at the exterior changes that turned a 12th century Abbey into a  working Farmhouse,

The below photo shows the Farmhouse in the 1920’s and in Victorian times the front was surrounded by a porch.  The next photo was taken in 1948 and in both photos, the true identity of the building seems to have vanished.

The two following photos, bring this side of the Abbey up to date, in 2016.

The below photo was taken in 1960 of the rear of the building and above the verandah there are traces of the hidden Abbey.  The next photo is the rear of the Abbey taken in 2016.

Denny is a fascinating site, and features from each period remain to give us tantalising glimpses into the past, which we will look at in the next post.