|Christian worship doesn't actually need any special features in the buildings that it is performed in. There is no cult object that requires a shrine, or large piece of furniture that has to be housed in a special way. Nevertheless, throughout the centuries, Christians have built churches that reflect their understanding of Christian worship.|
Today, just as in the early church, the clergy conduct
the liturgy 'on behalf' of the congregation, and the climax of the
service is the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. However, in the Middle Ages
the clergy conducted the sacrament 'instead of' the congregation.
The emphasis of the Eucharist shifted from the communion,
to the consecration. Since the congregation
and the clergy didn't have any communication during the service,
all that was needed was a distant view
of the raised host, dimly glimpsed through a wooden screen at the far end
of the church.
This resulted in churches being built with 'two rooms', the nave for the congregation, and chancel at the east end, for the clergy. The priest had also moved from facing the people across the altar to standing with his back to them, looking east. This is the model on which St.Mary's is built.
The main body of the church was built about 1130. The plan of a nave with a semi-circular apse at the east end was based on that of a Roman basilica: many churches of this type were built at the time of the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century A.D. This Roman (or Romanesque) style came to England through the French invasion at the the time of the Norman conquest, and is therefore called Norman.
The tower was added in the thirteenth century, although what is seen today dates mainly from the sixteenth century.