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Yorkshire St Mary's Church, Lastingham, North Yorkshire

Lastingham is an attractive stone village on the southern edge of the North York Moors, set in a deep valley with a stream flowing through it. The church is on the higher ground to the west of the village.

The church is built on the site of a C7th Celtic monastery founded by St Cedd of Lindisfarne. The monastery was destroyed during Viking raids in the C9th and nothing is left apart from the remains of Saxon preaching crosses and carved stones in the crypt.

In 1078, William the Conqueror gave permission for a new church at Lastingham run by the Benedictine monks from Whitby Abbey. The crypt dates from this time and is believed to have been built over the burial place of St Cedd.

A substantial church was planned, but the monks left and by 1088 building work had stopped The church was left derelict for 140 years. In 1228 work began again on the nave and chancel. The north aisle followed. The south aisle was completed in the C14th and the tower in the C15th. The church was beginning to fall into disrepair again in the C19th and in need of a major restoration. The vaulted roof and porch date from this time.

It is an attractive church with sheep grazing in the churchyard. It has a small square tower at the west end with a low pyramidal roof. It has a tall clerestoried nave with lower side aisles. At the east end is an apse, part of the 1078 church. Walls have big buttresses. There is a row of corbels along the top of the nave and carved corbels along the chancel.


Entry is through the south door, still with sanctuary knocker and set under a big plain Norman arch.

Inside the nave, steps lead down to the crypt. These were a C19th addition as previously entry had been from the outside. The crypt is the only one in England to have an apse, nave and side aisles.



The massive round columns stand on pre-Conquest bases and have heavy carved capitals.



There is a stone table altar in the apse and the only natural light is through a small Norman window. When we visited, there were old tombstones and parts of C10th crosses scattered around on the floor. The wooden medieval bier is also stored here. There are a few wood benches and a small prie dieu. It is definitely atmospheric.

The church feels warm and light in comparison.

Lastingham Chancel.jpg

The unusual vaulted ceiling is C19th.


There is a narrow pointed archway leading into the base of the tower. This has an iron ladder attached to the wall suggesting the tower may have been used for defence in troubled times. At the back of the nave is the original Norman stone tub font.

Two pillars with pointed arches separate nave and side aisles. At the end of the north aisle is a small chapel used for private prayer, with a massive stone altar. On the walls are C19th memorials.


The carved stone pulpit is part of the C19th restoration.

Lastingham pulpit.jpg

There are massive pillars supporting a round arch into the chancel which has a low stone screen. The altar is in the apse with a metal altar rail across. On the south side is a piscina and small sedilia.


The three Norman windows contain C19th stained glass. On the left is a Christ rising from the dead with sleeping soldiers. In the centre is the Crucifixion. On the right is the Nativity.

This is a marvellous church, especially the crypt. We have visited many times and never cease to be amazed by it. It is definitely worth finding and is open daily


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