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St Mary's Church, Kempley
Kempley Church - geograph.org.uk - 1373625.jpg
The church seen from the southeast
51°58′44″N 2°28′55″W / 51.9788°N 2.4820°W / 51.9788; -2.4820Coordinates: 51°58′44″N 2°28′55″W / 51.9788°N 2.4820°W / 51.9788; -2.4820
Location Kempley, Gloucestershire
Country England, UK
Denomination Church of England
History
Status parish church
Dedication St Mary
Architecture
Functional status redundant
Heritage designation Grade I listed
Designated 2 October 1954
Specifications
Materials rubble masonry
Administration
Deanery Tewkesbury
Archdeaconry Cheltenham
Diocese Diocese of Gloucester
Province Canterbury

St Mary's Church in Kempley is a former parish church in the Forest of Dean district of Gloucestershire, England, close to the border with Herefordshire. It is a Grade I listed building. St Mary's Church is now owned by English Heritage and maintained by The Friends of Kempley Churches.

History

The simple Norman church is now remote from the village it served. It has some of the best preserved medieval wall paintings in Britain. Those in the barrel-vaulted chancel, which is painted throughout, including the ceiling, are particularly rare, dating from the early 12th century. St Mary's has in its chancel "the most complete set of Romanesque frescoes in northern Europe", including the Christ in Majesty painting created in about 1120. On the walls of the nave are further images, including a wheel of life, showing the life cycle of man. The nave paintings are worked in tempera painted on dry lime mortar, unlike those in the chancel which are true frescoes.

In 1999 Francis P. Kelly at English Heritage initiated a dendrochronology test on the oak roof of the church. The Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory found the roof was the oldest medieval roof in Britain ever tested, dating back to 1120–1150.

The church has an unusually well-preserved interior. The church was restored in 1913 by Temple Moore. In the early months of the year, from late February to early March, the churchyard is often covered in wild daffodils.

The small village has two notable Anglican churches, the other, St Edward's Church, is Grade II* listed. The church, dedicated to Edward the Confessor, was built (1903–4) as a chapel of ease by the Lord of the Manor and major landowner, William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp, because St Mary's was too far away from the main centres of population in the parish and liable to flooding. The newer church was built to the design of Randall Wells. St Edward's became the parish church following the redundancy of St Mary's in 1975.

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