Author Archives: Father Rob

About Father Rob

Father Rob is Parish Priest for the Benefice of Geddington and Weekley

The Annual Queen Eleanor Requiem Mass

The Annual Queen Eleanor Requiem Mass. Sunday 3rd December, 9.45am.

Geddington is the only Parish Church in the country to continue to celebrate the Requiem Mass and say prayers for Queen Eleanor’s soul, even after the Reformation when such practices fell out of favour. Join us and continue the tradition!

Not Hagius, but Geddington’s Unknown Priest

A Saxon Church at the Heart of our Village


Saxon Arcading


The Saxon Roof Structure embedded in the stonework of later Norman adaptations.

In a village as ancient as Geddington, there was most likely a church long before the visible stone Saxon portion. In the stonework, it is still possible to see the Saxon arcading on what was the original exterior wall as well as the slope of the original roof structure.

Bones from a grave were discovered while the floor was being repaired in 1990, and it is thought that these may have been from a local Saxon priest or monk who served this church dutifully over 1000 years ago, possibly even at the time of its construction. An alternative suggestion is that it is the grave of a very early Norman priest or significant person connected with the church.

If it is the remains of the latter, then one thought that some historians have ventured, that seems nothing more than supposition at this stage, is that this person may have had some kind of connection to Geddington’s Royal Hunting Lodge and served one of the significant Norman kings who will have resided there. A remarkable ornament of the church, which may or may not be connected, is the effigy of an unknown priest now located in the South Lady Chapel (although clearly moved from its original location).

An effigy to an Unknown Priest – hajius ecclesiae
capellanus (Chaplain of the Church)

The Shrine of the Unknown Priest - used as an ancient place of pilgrimage.

The Unknown Priest – an ancient place of pilgrimage?

This effigy has been the cause of much intrigue over the years. Although there have been many strange and wonderful theories and stories told of this remarkable 13th or 14th Century memorial, the truth is much closer to home. There is an illustration of this effigy drawn by P. Tillemans, which states that the sketch was undertaken whilst the effigy sat “Nr the N Aisle at ye upper end under the N Wall, taken 10 July 1719”. It therefore looks likely that this effigy has been relocated at some point in its history from the North to the South Isle. This could have been when the Maydwell Chapel was was removed in the late 18th Century or during a major restoration of the Chancel in 1857. Eitherway, it seems that during its move some of the stonework around the edges (and possibly its inscription) has been lost.

Nonetheless, what is clear is that it is an original ornament of the church and one of some historical significance. It also adorns some rather remarkable and unique features. It is for, instance, very rare for such an effigy to have a holy water stoup or font at its head, as this one appears to, adorned with a cherub. This was a suggestion that an academic first put forward a few years ago when examining the church. As far as we are aware, there are no other effigy’s of this sort still in existence in this country that have such a feature, which has led to some other academics to a counter argument as to whether this can actually be the case. But if this were, for instance, dating from the time of Edward 1st, given the flamboyance and spiritual fervour of the Eleanor Cross he had built in the centre of the village, the possibility of such a devotional addition to this priest’s effigy is certainly not to be dismissed so readily out of hand.

the recess of a holy water stoup? to the left ear of the priest’s head, adorned by a cherub.

A picture of a modern-day fiddleback chasuble

What is beyond doubt is the chalice, paten (for the bread) and Bible or Missal held lovingly in his hands. The figure can also be seen wearing a fiddleback chasuble (traditional early medieval priests’ wear – unlikely to be a shield as some have ventured). A letter in the Boughton archives dating from 1736 gives us some important insight into the validity of the effigy. Hagius ecclesiae capellanus (Hagius Church Chaplain – Hagius is also Greek for Saint) has proven to be a mis-transcription of the effigy’s original inscription, which should read Hajius ecclesiae capellanus (Chaplain to the Church). Most intriguing, however, is the letter’s claim that there was a common understanding amongst the local people of Geddington and surrounding areas that this priest died whilst celebrating the Eucharist. There is nothing beyond conjecture to contradict this story.

To die in such a way may have understandably been considered as a significant and saintly way to die (ask any living priest how they would choose to die and many would say that there could be no greater privilege than to die whilst celebrating the Eucharist). Regardless, it seems likely that this priest quickly became considered locally as a very holy and saintly individual after his death. There is, however, no suggestion that the wider church recognised him as a Saint. As far as we are aware, such a claim has never been made.  His title, Chaplain of the Church, simply suggests that he was appointed by the priory or local monastic house and served the church. He certainly seems to have been one of the earliest recorded priests of Geddington Church. It is likely that the effigy you see pictured here dates from late 13th or early 14th Century (Similar 14th Century effigies are in existence elsewhere).

If this effigy is not connected to the Saxon/early Norman burial mentioned above, then another possibility put forward by historians is that the priest this effigy commemorates may well have served one of the slightly later Plantagenet kings who resided in Geddington’s Royal Hunting Lodge. Could this, for instance, commemorate the priest who served Queen Eleanor and presided over her Requiem Mass following her death? The date of the effigy certainly seems to fit this period. Or could this priest have served King John whilst he stayed at Geddington during the period when he attempted to avoid civil war?

For the moment, and unless further evidence presents itself, this priest’s name is known only to God. There are many ways to interpret all this evidence. But he clearly served the parish, out in all weathers baptising sickly babies and taking the last rites to dying parishioners. His was the day-to-day heroism of a man committed to his Godly vocation. He said the prayers in church, even when there was no-one else to say them with him. This certainly contributed to him acquiring a certain reputation for sanctity following his death. Because of his ministry, and that of people like him down the centuries, the church is still a place where prayer has been valid and Geddington church remains a ‘Powerhouse of Prayer’ to the local communities.

In his effigy, this person’s priestly credentials are evidenced by the chalice, paten and Missal/Bible which are placed lovingly in his hands. His holy credentials evidenced by his long neck and tonsure – signs of holiness.

There are pieces of physical evidence that may suggest this was a place of pilgrimage and prayer at various points in the church’s history: As aforementioned, there appears to be what looks like a Holy Water Stoup/Font at the head, there is smooth wearing of the hands and face, which is more pronounced than elsewhere on the effigy (by pilgrims wanting to touch the saintly image of this holy man? – it may be weathering, but then why hasn’t the rest weathered in equal measure?), and there are pilgrims’ marks which can be seen on the outside of the building. Thus, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the site was used as a place of pilgrimage and maybe even a shrine during the Medieval period and/or later revived in the Victorian era. Given its royal associations, the church will most certainly have carried much attraction and local acclaim to visitors with a religious interest, who will have undoubtedly made their way here to pay a visit and pray. Given the rumours of the nature of his death, locals may well have began to recognise this priest for his healing and protective credentials. I wonder if that still carries weight today?

On the outside of the building there is evidence of pilgrims’ markings.
Here we can see sundial markings. The hole in the centre is designed to put a finger in so that a pilgrim might know what time it was.

Here we can see clear pilgrims’ crosses.

You are warmly invited to continue to visit this holy place at anytime and pray at the site of Geddington’s unknown priest.



 We are thankful to Prof Madeleine Gray for providing some factual features for this article. This section, will necessarily be subject to update as more information becomes known. 

Services and events – Sunday 3rd September

Services and events – Sunday 3rd September

8am Holy Communion (Geddington)

11.15am Patronal Festival with Procession (The Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Weekley)

1pm Summer Fete (Weekley)

6.30pm Confirmation Class (Geddington Church)

Come and join us!

Life Lived in Resurrection Hope – Patronal Festival 2017

Click Here: Life Lived in Resurrection Hope – A Sermon for our Patronal Festival on the Feast Of St Mary Magdalene 2017 (PDF)


Life Lived in Resurrection Hope – Mary Magdalene 2017

Today is a special day in the annual life of our parish. It is the feast day of our patron saint, St Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene is a saint for all people, one whom everyone can relate to and take inspiration from.
Because it is such a special day, it is one of the four or five times in the Christian year when we have incense. Incense is an important symbol of Christian devotion and worship. Incense has been an integral part of worship long before the institution of the Church. It is widely referred to throughout scripture to denote special moments of divine closeness.
Throughout scripture, whenever God or heaven is near, we hear of an accompanying sweet smelling smoke or mist. It brings mystery, awe and wonder. Incense in our worship today helps open our spiritual eye to the reality before us; heaven breaking into this world.
In recent decades, our church communities have somewhat devalued the power of symbolism, but they have done so at their peril. Words can simply never explain the full glory and wonder of our God of compassion and mercy. The God who loves us so dearly that he sends his Son so that we might attain eternal life. We worship in a building of rich symbolism; its Saxon architecture, the wonderful art in its stained glass windows, its inspiring crucifix, its medieval reredos, the robes worn by our priests and servers are all symbols that can move us to a better spiritual place if we have our hearts open to receive what God wishes to reveal to us through them. Symbols engage different parts of our senses and reveal to us eternal truths that our intellect alone can never comprehend.
Earlier this week, I took the opportunity to visit a friend who is a priest in a dense urban area on the edge of a city. The church he had charge of had recently been condemned and had subsequently been demolished. The site of his church was now a flattened rubble surrounded by a tall metal fence. The only surviving remnant of the church was the 12ft crucifix which had once adorned the garden and a medieval font turned on its side in the mud.
The church community had been forced to search for another suitable venue to worship in whilst they tried to raise the £20 million it would cost to build a new church. They began meeting in the local pub, but that became unsustainable, and so now they were meeting in a hall.
The parish priest was unsurprisingly rather downbeat when we met. As I joined them for their daily Eucharist, I began reflecting on what I had seen. At coffee I found that God had given me something that I needed to share with them all. As I spoke to them, I realised that the picture before me was a marked example of the spiritual battle that is being waged all over our world and within the hearts of every one of us. The powers of darkness had attacked this once beautiful symbol of God’s love and all that remained was rubble. But a symbol of love remained, all the same, and evil had not overcome it. The crucifix stood as a testimony that Christ had not left the estate. The font turned on its side was not a testimony of defeat but a promise of a future where the waters of God’s freedom would once again flow. The church still lived and God’s people still met, albeit in a less permanent home. This scene, then, was not a scene of death and decay, but was to be a wonderful symbol of resurrection. Amidst the worst the world could do to derail God’s plan, evil would not conquer, because God would always have the final victory: God’s people survive and eventually a new church will become a symbol of resurrection to the surrounding community once again.
Our church is just such a symbol in our own community and how wonderful it is that it should be dedicated to the first witness to Christ’s rising from the dead. Today we celebrate the feast day of our patron saint, the Mary called Magdalene. We first encounter Mary as a women who is a living example of the way the powers of darkness can limit and distort a human life. Mary Magdalene is a sinner, a women living in darkness and caught in a cycle of behaviour that she cannot seem to escape. Thought to be a prostitute, she has been left behind by the economic imbalance of the world. She is forced to live in the shadows and earn a crust in any way she can. But this lifestyle had left her emotionally and mentally damaged. Her life was limited and dying due to the ravages of sin and darkness which encircled her from all sides. All sides except one…
Something in her encounter with Jesus brings hope and light into her otherwise dark world. She becomes the sinner who is forgiven and encounters a new way of living. For the first time in her life, Jesus offers her a world where her past does not dominate her future. A new world unfolds before her eyes. Here is a man whose unconditional love transforms everything she is. Meeting Jesus brings small moments of resurrection, where she begins to live in the light, long before Jesus actually dies. Mary Magdalene becomes Jesus’ most loyal supporter and her love for her Lord transforms her whole world and every relationship she has.
Mary Magdalene is probably the most changed of all the Disciples. After meeting Jesus, her spiritual sight becomes pure and unaffected by the distractions of the world. Her heart becomes so filled with the love of God that it is no wonder that she is the first one to see the Resurrection.
She lives in the light of the Resurrection for the rest of her life. She is given such a confidence and positivity for God’s master plan that she travels to far off shores spreading the Gospel and growing the Church. Mary Magdalene’s influence in spreading Christianity around the world cannot by underestimated.

For Mary Magdalene, the grand event of Jesus resurrection following his death is a significant event revealing the full glory of God’s kingdom values breaking into this world. Transformed by it, she enters a lifetime of service to God. But the story for Mary Magdalene starts long before this divine event. With every act of love, every moment of forgiveness, every time she is told that she is worth more than what her life had previously been reduced to; Mary experiences fleeting glimpses of God’s kingdom values breaking into this world. That’s where her journey begins.
As individuals and as a community we have moments of resurrection in our lives too. Those times where a reconciliation, an act of love, a coming together in the joint endeavour of service to God. During these times we see the kingdom of God breaking into our world. Today, our special festival, may well be one such moment.
And we are a community living in the Resurrection. This church community has been transformed these past few years from a place of defensiveness, fear and darkness to a place of vibrancy and joy. So as we go about our business today, and every day, let us live in the joy that only faith in Jesus can bring. Let us not allow the negative forces of doubt or cynicism take a hold of our souls.
Just like Mary Magdalene, the more we can live in resurrection joy, the more resilient we will become to the dark forces of the world. The more we strive to live in these moments, the more we live in tune with the kingdom values of God. The more we live in tune with the Kingdom Values of God, the more we become conduits for the incoming kingdom that transforms our world and opens eternity.