“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Wiltshire's Italian Church

The Wiltshire town of Wilton, which is synonymous with English carpet manufacture, is not the sort of place that you would expect to find an ornate Italian Church. But that is exactly what Wilton has.

The church in question is the Church of St. Mary and St. Nicholas, which was built on West Street between 1841 and 1844, as a replacement for the town's 15th century Church of St Mary.

The Church of St. Mary and St. Nicholas was commissioned by The Lord Herbert of Lea with support from his mother the Dowager Countess of Pembroke, who was of Russian descent. The Lord Herbert of Lea had a passion for Italian architecture and as a result the architects created the church in a Romanesque style, with considerable Byzantine influences. It has also been proposed that the church was built as an imitation of a basilica in Lombardy, Italy.

One of the most striking features of this impressive building is its 105ft high campanile which is connected to the church by a short cloister, which is adorned with carved columns. The church also boasts crafted items that were imported from Europe to be incorporated into the building, such as 2nd century B.C. marble columns from the Temple of Venus at Porto Venere, and 12th and 13th century stained glass from France. The church even contains a 17th century engraved metal chest from Germany.

Not all of the church's adornments are from exotic locales however, the church bells were recycled from the melted down bells of the old St Mary's Church.

The church also has an unusual alignment, with it lying on a north-east to south-west axis, as opposed to the more traditional easterly alignment. This highly unusual parish church was consecrated on 9th October 1845 and is well worth a visit!

The Church of St. Mary and St. Nicholas on West Street in Wilton. 

A decorative lion supporting the archway over the main entrance.

The ornate interior of the church. 

Carved columns in the cloister between the church and the campanile. 

A rear view of the church.
Pictures, Wiltshire (August 2014).

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