There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Three Favourite Churches: Irkutsk, Thalassery & Bagendon

Unlike Lynne, I am not a believer, but I am interested in religion and I do like churches.  I like the architecture, I like the history they contain and the sense of community they embody. Building a church is somebody’s attempt at the sublime, sometimes for the greater glory of god, sometimes for or the greater glory of themselves. Here I am appreciating their efforts not judging their motivation.

Two of the churches appear elsewhere in these pages. To read about them in context, click on the link.

Cathedral of the Epiphany, Irkutsk

Cathedral of the Epiphany, Irkutsk
At the start of the 20th century the Siberian city of Irkutsk had two cathedrals and two other major churches clustered round one square. A decade of civil war and sixty years of communism saw them all either destroyed or converted to other uses. Since 1990 the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Epiphany has been reconsecrated, restored and repainted. Resembling an elaborate birthday cake it raises a smile in an otherwise rather dour city.

St Mary's, Thalassery

St Mary's, Thalassery

A quarter of the 33 million inhabitants of Kerala, India's most southwesterly state, are Christians and, if asked, most will say they are Catholics. They are not, however, Roman Catholics but members of the Syrian Catholic Church. According to tradition the church was founded by the apostle St Thomas who came to India about 40 AD and is buried in Chennai (formerly Madras). Whether that is true or not, the Syrian Catholic Church certainly predates the arrival of European missionaries by many centuries. This church is on the Keralan coast at Thalassery (formerly Tellicherry); in typical Indian style it is full of colour and light.

and, rather closer to home

St Margaret's, Bagendon, Gloucestershire

St Margaret's, Bagendon

One of the delights of the Cotswolds is the way buildings can be so much part of the landscape they seem to have grown organically from it. The tiny church at Bagendon is a perfect example, and also an embodiment of two thousand years of Cotswold history. Although the earliest parts of the building are Saxon, Roman votive artefacts have been found in the churchyard suggesting the site was of religious significance in pre-Christian times. The tower is Norman, but the nave was rebuilt in the late fourteen hundreds. The enormous wealth brought to the Cotswolds by the wool trade at that time resulted in many churches receiving a Perpendicular Gothic makeover. Nineteenth century restorations and the addition of a porch in the 1960s were done so sympathetically it is hard to tell what is new.

Maybe in a while there will be three more favourite churches …and to show I am unbiased in the religions I do not believe in, there might be three favourite mosques/synagogues /Buddhist temples/Hindu temples and even Jain Temples – though these would be selected from a rather small pool.


  1. Two out of three of these churches look as if they'd be rather welcome if sliced and served around 4 o'clock with a cup of tea....

  2. I admire the photography and the juxtapositioning (is or is not a verb?) Reminded me I have an image of a pretty Russian Orthodox church in Kodiak, Alaska, that I could pair with something from my old England collection. Reminding me further that I need to update my collection and visit your isle soon. Lucinda Wingard