touching place ST LAURENCE, COMBE, OXON

Around 1395, the monks of Eynsham Abbey had the church at Combe rebuilt. Previously down by the Evenlode, now it is up on a hill, nearly all Perpendicular a bit like East Anglia. Inside, and the wide unaisled nave is indeed reminiscent of 15th-century Norfolk. Perhaps the most remarkable furnishing is the stone pulpit in the north nave wall, almost organic in the way that it grows from the wall.

Like the crocketed sedilia in the chancel, the image niche to the right of the chancel arch which formerly accompanied the Lady altar looks earlier: was this a venerated image transplanted from the earlier church? Raise your eyes to the tracery of the East window for the surviving 15th-century stained glass; spot the angels standing on wheels and wonder no longer where Comper found his ideas.

Combe has a range of wall-paintings covering more than one epoch. The latest are 17th century. Moses, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Decalogue appear in the nave; but the most striking is the large 15th-century Doom above the chancel arch. On your way out, look again at the painted Crucifixion to the left of the chancel arch. A river of blood pours from the wound in His side, whilst it runs from the wounded hands down Christ's arms, and drips from His head where it is pierced by the Crown of Thorns. Today it is sometimes said that five hundred years ago Christians concentrated on the Passion at the expense of the Resurrection. It is fairer to say that they took Our Lord's Passion and what was involved in our Redemption very seriously.

Reflect on the medieval prayer Adoro te, Domine Jesu Christe, in Cruce pendentem, quoted by Eamon Duffy: I adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, hanging upon the Cross, and bearing on your head a crown of thorns: I beseech you, Lord Jesus Christ, that your Cross may free me from the avenging Angel.'

Map reference SP 414159
Simon Cotton

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