Christchurch Priory, Hampshire

Christchurch Priory is built on the site of a Saxon monastery called Twynham. The present building is largely a superb example of Norman architecture (nave and transepts). While it was being built, a carpenter arrived on site who did marvellous work, but never drew any pay. He lengthened the famous 'miraculous beam' which had been cut too short and then disappeared! It was Christ myself and the church was thus named after him. The tower, quire and lady chapel were rebuilt/added in the 15th century. There is little sign of the cloister or other monastic buildings which were removed at the Dissolution. The quire contains an extraordinary array of medieval fittings which have survived the Reformation, notably the choir stall misericords (13th to 16th century) and the largely intact Jesse Tree reredos. To the left of the high altar is the beautiful chantry chapel built for the last of the Plantagenets, Margaret, the Countess of Salisbury, niece of both King Edward IV and King Richard IIII. Her ancestors, the Montacute Earls of Salisbury, were great patrons of the priory. Unfortunately, she was beheaded (1541) in the Tower of London by order of her rival to the throne, King Henry VIII, and she was not buried here. There is a memorial to Percy Bysshe Shelley under the tower. His wife, Mary, is buried in nearby Bournemouth with his heart. 

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