St John's Church, Glastonbury
About Us - St Mary's & All Saints Church, Meare
Joint Eucharist with St Benedict's and St John's. Venue rotates between the churches.
Christianity comes to Meare
In the year 1091 the monks of Glastonbury took the bones of a holy man named Beonna or Beon from Meare to be added to the huge store of relics already in the Abbey's possession. Who was this Beonna? The monks believed he was a Celtic hermit from Ireland; others say that he must have been a Saxon. The fact remains that this very saintly man lived and died at Meare somewhere between the 5th and 9th centuries. The present church almost certainly stands on the site of his cell.
Further information about Beonna/St Benignus can be found in an extract from 'Glastonbury Abbey; The Holy House at the Head of the Moors Adventurous' by James P Carley, published by Gothic Image.
The Parish Church
Abbot Adam of Sodbury built a church here in the decorated style which was consecrated in 1323 by Bishop Drokenford 'in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of All Saints, especially S. Benignus, Confessor'. What a strange mistake! The monks of Glastonbury confused the hermit of Meare, with another Irish saint, Benignus, successor of St. Patrick in the See of Armagh. The side chapel installed in 1987 is dedicated to his memory. Only the chancel and tower survive from Abbot Adam's church. Some 150 years after its building Abbot Selwood had the nave rebuilt in the perpendicular style. A window in this style in the chancel and another in the tower were put in at this time or later. John Selwood's 'rebus' or monogram is to be seen on the east end of the parapet of the south aisle. The rebuilding was completed by the next Abbot, Bere. His arms are on the south-west corbel of the nave roof - the cross flanked by two cruets, supposed to represent the vessels containing the blood and sweat of Christ brought to Glastonbury by Joseph of Arimathea. One of the corbels of the south aisle roof has the inscription 'John Jacman made ye rof' - so here we have the name of one of the medieval craftsmen.
The magnificent ironwork of the hinges which fans out across the door is said to date from the early 14th Century. A somewhat similar design is to be seen on a door at nearby Sharpham Park, once a summer residence of the Abbot's of Glastonbury.
The nave roof is plain, with angel busts on the stone corbels supporting the roof timbers. The roof of the chancel is unusual with its tie-beams, queen-posts, wind-braces, etc., more like the roof of a domestic great hall.
Plain, octagonal, perpendicular style. We are told that a stone vessel in the museum at Wells is a font of Saxon date brought from Meare.
A fine example of a 15th Century stone pulpit.
The alms box, set on a handsome carved oak pillar, is probably as old as the pulpit.
This arch, belonging to the 15th Century nave, is set off-centre against the older chancel. Why? Two little angels support the arch.
To the north of the arch there is a hagioscope or squint, allowing those in the north aisle to see the altar at Mass. Nearby, hidden by the organ, is the entrance to the rood-loft stairs, leading to a door higher in the wall which gave access to the rood-loft itself.
An unusual design, set at an angle in the south wall of the sanctuary.
The peal of six bells, said to have been cast originally from the old bells of Glastonbury Abbey, bear the dates 17O7, 1731 and 1746, when they were recast.
The old chest by the church door, bearing the churchwardens initials and the date 1705, replaced an older one in which were preserved pieces of armour for the use of the 39 men of the village available in medieval times for the King's service. The Muster Roll of 1569 lists the names of those liable for military service, adding descriptions such as 'pikeman', 'billman', 'archer', etc..
The fine candelabra in the chancel is dated 1777 and bears the names of the churchwardens of the day. Like a number of others to be seen in churches in Somerset it was made in Bridgwater.
All 19th Century, except for some small scraps of medieval. As late as 1790 there was still surviving a fine old window apparently depicting the Seven Sacraments.
In the 18th Century a Singing Gallery was erected at the west end of the church - we can still see where the supporting pillars stood. The churchwardens' accounts tell us that here the village musicians played such instruments as the bassoon, hautboy, serpent and 'cello.
Some fine examples with beautifully cut lettering are to be seen on the floor of the chancel and of the aisles, one as early as 1638.
At the churchyard gate stands the base and shaft of a medieval cross, at various times repaired and rebuilt and moved across the road and back again. The village stocks stood close by, as we are told that the unfortunate prisoner sat on the steps of the cross! New stocks were provided as recently as 1821 by the churchwardens.
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