Minster-in-Thanet, St Mary the Virgin Church
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Early 15th century carved misericors
The history of Minster church is entwined with that of Minster Abbey. The abbey was founded in 670AD, when Ermenburga of Mercia accepted a gift of land from Egbert of Kent as weregild for the murder of her younger brothers at the king's court, so that she could found a nunnery on the Isle of Thanet. According to legend, the boundary of the land granted to Ermenburga was determined by the course her pet deer took when released to wander on its own. With the addition of later grants of land the estates of Minster Abbey encompassed about half of Thanet. The abbey was ransacked by the Danes, and abandoned for a time before it was refounded by the monks of Canterbury, who rebuilt the Saxon timber buildings in stone. Throughout this early part of the abbey's history the monastic church served both the nuns and the townsfolk as a parish church. For a more detailed history of Minster Abbey see our article on the abbey.
We've already mentioned the 12th century nave, which has remained almost unaltered since it was built. The north aisle pillars have capitals decorated with foliage carvings, while in the aisle is a wall monument to Thomas Paramore (d. ). At the north end of the aisle is the Thorne Chapel, with the 13th century tomb of Aedile de Thorne. Look up at the lancet windows and you will see a stained glass depiction of a stag, the symbol of Thanet after the story of Ermenburga's deer.
The chancel is a true highlight; one of the finest of any parish churches in Kent. It is primarily in Early English style, with a much later Victorian east window by Thomas Willement, the “Father of Victorian Stained Glass”.
But the real highlight in the chancel are the wonderful medieval misericords that decorate the choir stalls. The early 15th century stalls feature no fewer than 18 carved misericords. These 'mercy seats' were used to provide a comfortable place for monks to rest during long services. There are 18 misericords here, probably carved in 1410, and they cover an array of subjects including a cook with a ladle, an angel playing a stringed instrument, a serpent eating its own tail, a king, dragons, lions, and other strange beasts. Perhaps the strangest, a certainly the one that tells us most about medieval society, is a depiction of a 'scold's bridle'; a woman with a bit in her mouth, intended to stop her from speaking. Together these make up one of the finest collection of misericords in the south east of England.
There are several interesting bits and bobs in the south aisle, including a cover of a wooden chained Bible in a glass display case. At the west end is a 12th century Norman font near an ancient iron-bound muniment chest, unusually made of fir with a lid of elm.
NB. My thanks to the excellent church guide for information on the Minster incumbents.
Note: Don't confuse St Mary's church with Minster Abbey, which is located further east along Church Street. And don't confuse either with Minster-in-Sheppey, also in Kent!
Address: Church Street, Minster-in-Thanet, Kent, England, CT124HA
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: Off Church Street, in the centre of Minster. Free on-street parking. Open most days.
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Minster Abbey - 0.1 miles (Abbey)
St Augustine's Cross - 1.8 miles (Historic Building)
Powell-Cotton Museum, Quex House and Gardens - 2.5 miles (Museum)
Richborough Roman Fort - 2.6 miles (Roman Site)
West Stourmouth, All Saints Church - 3.6 miles (Historic Church)
Ramsgate, St Laurence in Thanet Church - 3.7 miles (Historic Church)
Sandwich, St Mary's Church - 3.8 miles (Historic Church)
The Secret Gardens of Sandwich - 4 miles (Garden)
Nearest Accommodation to Minster-in-Thanet:
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Tourist Information Centre
Tel: 01304 613 565