The Priory Church of St Mary and the Holy Cross,
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We are offering the children an opportunity to find and name different parts of the church and its furnishings. The children first need to orientate themselves to the points of the compass marked on the plan.
The nave is the central aisle flanked by seats on either side for the congregation. The word comes from the Latin navis, meaning ship. The association of the church with a ship, and the congregation as passengers in the ship, indicates the priest and people travelling together towards God. In medieval times there would have been no seats in the church, the elderly or infirm sat against a pillar with their ‘backs to the wall’.
The font is used for baptisms and is at the back of the church. At baptism an individual is welcomed into the church community. This is a Seven Sacrament Font unique to East Anglia. The heads were purposely broken at the time of the Reformation, when all images were destroyed inside churches.
An Arch separates the pillars, rounded arches are Norman and pointed arches are Early English.
A monk’s doorway, there are two, one on either side of the altar, they connected this church with the monk’s church.
Binham Priory church has no pulpit – the place where a priest stands to give the sermon (talk) at a service. The children might like to discuss this.
When the children have experienced the ‘awe and wonder’ that all new visitors have as they step inside the Priory church, they might like to focus on the 500 year old oak benches. These have wonderful carved ‘poppyheads’ (from the French word for a doll-poupée) at both ends of each bench.
These older benches inside the Priory church, are a rich source of carvings and patterns and the following worksheet invites pupils to find particular features, and then use their imagination.
This activity sheet takes about 1 hour.
This is an activity to encourage children’s close observational skills and then to hypothesise on what has happened.
To do this activity you will need to be in the Monastic Precinct possibly near the Refectory. (refer to plan)
The excavations and reconstruction of the Monastic buildings took place in the 20th century. This engraving was made in the 19th century by the Norfolk artist John Cotman 1782-1842. A large collection of his watercolours may be seen at the Castle Museum in Norwich.
It took 150 years for the masons to build Binham Priory church and they started at the east-end. There must have been many years when the building work was at a standstill.
The rounded arches are Norman and those with pointed tops are Early English.
The windows from the outer south wall have been moved into the existing south wall of the church, the squared windows are Tudor.
The monastery and all its buildings were pulled down in 1539 on the orders of Henry VIII, at the time of the Dissolution of the monasteries. The church was left standing as it was the village church, with its own vicar.
However the ‘pupil materials detective’ will be able to discover many different materials in use in Binham Priory, and the same materials used in different applications.
Some of the materials have been in place for 900 years and are still fit for purpose. Others have lasted less well and been replaced. If we were building Binham Priory today we might use different materials.
This activity takes 20-30 minutes.
Should the language in these rules be difficult for the children to understand then perhaps you should read and discuss each one first as a group.
Chapter 3 On Summoning the Brethren to Council – focuses on the Abbot sharing a problem with all the monks and then listening to their ideas and suggestions for how the community should proceed. Perhaps this could be linked to your School Council. The Abbot’s role can be likened to that of the school head teacher.
The suggested activities might be discussed further as a follow up activity in the classroom.
St. Benedict who founded the Benedictine order of monks had a rule in chapter 55 about clothing and footwear. Monks who received new clothes had to return the old ones immediately so that they would be given to the poor. Any monk found hiding any private possessions would be punished. They could only have what they had been given by the Prior.
Life at the monastery
What would the monk have used this equipment for?
Binham Priory only had 1 fireplace for the monks in the Warming Room.
What might prevent some from joining the monastery – only the rich would have had a silver spoon.
The possessions which children today have are strongly influenced by the pressures of advertising and their peers and reflect the material world that we live in.
This worksheet might provide an opportunity for children to consider what they have and why they want it to be replaced or renewed even if it still works or fits.
Children might notice the complete lack of digital, electrical equipment – do monasteries today use technological equipment or monks and nuns wear watches?
Project supported with help of Heritage Lottery Funding