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Architecture : The Interior
Pearson, when designing Truro Cathedral, is said to have told a friend that he wished to build a church that would bring people to their knees. This is what many people assert to be the impression made on them as they enter St. Stephen’s Church.
It suggests at once the sense of worship. This is largely due to the wonderful sense of proportion which makes it all one harmonious whole.There is no part which does not contribute its own beauty to the striking effect of the whole.
There are certain features which arrest attention at once:
- the lofty stone groined roof
- the triforium gallery which runs round the church
- the very unusual feature of double aisles on each side of the nave
- the ambulatory behind the High Altar and the chancel screen
- the Chapel of Our Lady on the left
- the Calvary Chapel of St Michael and the Holy Souls on the right.
The pulpit of marble shows three scenes from the New Testament. In the centre, Our Lord preaching the sermon on the mount, to his disciples; at the sides St.Peter preaching on the first Whitsunday (Pentecost), and St.Paul preaching at Athens.
It was dedicated on June 10th, in memory of the first Vicar’s wife. Designed by J.L.Pearson, sculptured by Nathaniel Hitch. The first sermon from it was preached by Canon Twells, first Vicar of St.Augustin’s (Author of the hymn “At even ere the sun was set.”)
The Statue of St Stephen
The statue of St. Stephen is a more recent addition to the church and is the work of Martin Travers.
The screen which surrounds the chancel is a good example of Victorian iron-work, designed by Pearson.
The High Altar has a well carved front, with the Adoration of the Magi in its central panel, and on either side symbols of the Evangelists, St.Peter and St.Stephen, St. Augustine and St.Ambrose.
Towering above the altar is the Triptych or Reredos, designed by Nathaniel Hitch, which represents in the centre Our Lord crucified, with the Blessed Virgin and St.John standing on either side. On the left of this we see Elijah and his raven; On the right the Prophet Isaiah. On the left wing of the triptych are St.Stephen and Moses; on the right St.John the Baptist and David. Above are the figures of four bishops, St.Ambrose, St.Augustine, St.Clement and St.Swithun, each of whom has, or at some time had a church dedicated to his honour in the town.
It was Moses and Elijah who appeared with our Lord at his Transfiguration. So around the cross of Christ there gather representatives of the Old Covenant and the New, and Easterns and Westerns in united adoration.
The pavement of the Chancel and Sanctuary, as also the pavement in the Sanctuary of the Lady Chapel, are of marble, some of it very rare and coming from many distant places such as Ireland, France, Italy, Sweden, Greece and even Africa. Both these pavements were designed by Frank Pearson. In 1996 these marbles were cleaned showing them in their full beauty.
The stone carving of the Sedilia and Credence in the Sanctuary are well worthy of notice, as also the Bishop’s chair, of which the carving is old. It is supposed to have come from a church in Essex.
There is some very good carving on the Choir Stalls, which are of Baltic Oak and were designed by Frank Pearson. On the right side beginning at the east end are the following figures, St.Cecilia, the musician; the Ven. Bede, a great founder of Church life in the North of England; St.Augustine, the founder of the notable mission which brought our Saxon forefathers to the Faith; St.Catherine, who was martyred on a wheel, studded with spikes, and whose fame was brought to England by the crusaders; St.Stephen, our patron saint. On the left we find St.Hilda of Whitby Abbey; St.Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln; St.Perpetua, Martyr of Carthage; St.Edward the Confessor, King of England just before the Norman Conquest; St Etheldreda, Abbess of Ely and founder of its Cathedral; St.Alban the first Christian Martyr on English soil
The panels represent, the Faith of St.Peter, which made him begin to walk on the water to come to Jesus; The raising of Lazarus from the dead; the raising of the widow’s son at Nain: The Great Draught of fishes; the parable of the tares and wheat; the return of the prodigal son; Our Lord’s resurrection; and the Good Shepherd. Notice the variety of design of the “poppy heads” and the richness and depth of the mouldings.
Click on each for a larger view
Notice the quatre foil windows above the small galleries on either side of the chancel. That on the north side represents the four evangelists: A man or angel for St.Matthew; an eagle for St.John; an ox for St. Luke; a Lion for St.Mark. That on the south side represents the Holy Spirit as a dove with angels all around. Round the edge is an inscription, “I will pray the Father and He shall give you another comforter even the Spirit of truth.” The other light in this gallery represents St.Cecilia. After walking round the ambulatory notice the light by the vestry door which represents St.Michael on the Right and St.George on the left.
Illuminated Musical Manuscript of the 14th Century
Just below the above window is a framed manuscript. It contains part of the service for the Festival of the Purification (Candlemass). The initial A is a picture of the Presentation of Our Lord as a child in the Temple. The words on this side mean; “Mother of God, pray for us. Adorn Thy Chamber, O Sion, And receive Christ the King, whom A Virgin conceived, a Virgin bore A Virgin after bearing Whom she bore adored.” The words on the other side mean; “Simeon took the Child in his hands. Giving thanks, he bless- ed the Lord, Whom When the days were completed of Her Purification according to the Law of Moses they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord, as it was written.”
Notice the big picture of Our Lord carrying his cross and wearing the Crown of Thorns. It was given in 1917 as a memorial of a son killed in the First World War. It has a remarkable history, having on the back Episcopal seals, and having been in other churches before. Beyond this nothing is known of it.
There is a remarkable vista of the church obtained from this point.