History of St Gregory's Minster Kirkdale

For more detailed history of the church, and for information about the Friends of St Gregory's Minster, go to the Friends of St Gregory's Minster pages.

Christianity amongst the English, which is now some 1500 years old, was probably only two hundred years old when the foundations of St Gregory's Minster were first laid in Kirkdale. Its tranquil setting in the lovely wooded dale alongside Hodge Beck gives shelter to this ancient minster, its cloud of witnesses from generations gone by, and its ongoing ministry to the modern world.

'One would look far before finding a place which surpasses Kirkdale for the combination of beauty of setting with historic and architectural interest.' Few would disagree with these opening words of St Gregory's Minster's guide book written by Richard Fletcher. Kirkdale's most famous monument is the ANGLO-SAXON SUNDIAL situated just above the main doorway under cover of the C18th porch. It is well preserved owing to its having been covered by a coating of plaster for several centuries prior to 1771 and to the subsequent protection afforded by the porch. The Old English inscriptions on the sundial tell us that St Gregory's was bought by Orm Gamelson when it was in ruins and he had it rebuilt. It tells us that this was during the period when Tostig was Earl of Northumbria, 1055-1065. The earliest phase of the present building was therefore within this decade. The inscription makes it clear that the church built by Orm replaced an earlier one and expert scholarly opinion, on the evidence of decorated stone slabs and more recent excavations, dates the history of the site to about 750 or perhaps even earlier. There are several more interesting items within the church. 

A cluster of commemorations

Cuthbert of Lindisfarne : Detail from a Romanesque wall-painting in the Galilee Chapel, Durham Cathedral

The Feast Day of Cuthbert of Lindisfarne is March 20th.The Feast Day of Gregory the Great, Patron of Kirkdale, is September 3rd.

Those who like to track local and national history in the annual cycle of the (Anglican) Church Calendar will have noted that October is the month for commemoration of a little cluster of worthies of relevance to the early (Anglo-Saxon) Northumbrian Church.

On October 10th the Church commemorates Paulinus, the bishop who led the Christian mission from Canterbury to York in 627. On October 11th Ethelburga is remembered - the already baptised queen of king Edwin who, urged by Pope Boniface, assisted Paulinus in Edwin’s conversion. On October 12th remembrance is made of Wilfrid, bishop of York and builder of Ripon and Hexham churches (the latter recently visited in a joint excursion between the Friends of Kirkdale and of Lastingham), the ancient crypts of which still survive and can be viewed. And on October 13th the Church honours the king whose name appears in the Anglo-Saxon inscription on Kirkdale’s ancient sundial. It was in Eadward dagum cyning - ‘in the days of king Edward’ - that Orm Gamalson rebuilt the ruined St Gregory’s Minster. This king Edward was Edward the Confessor (died 1066) who founded Westminster Abbey, and is remembered on this day.

York Minster publishes the current Calendar online (York Minster Service Scheme).

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