Broadwell - St Peter & St Paul's Church
This large medieval cruciform church, with a north and south transept, dates back to the 12th to 14th centuries and reflects the importance of Broadwell (or Bradwell) at that time. Nowadays it stands in a small village of a few houses, with another small village, Kencot, just beyond the eastern church wall.
In the 12th century Broadwell had a population of about 2,000. Did the Black Death kill the village in 1349 or was it the collapse of the Knights Templar, the benefactors to Broadwell? There is no evidence of the Black Death but the building of this church and its recorded history does coincide with the rise in power of the Knights Templar after the First Crusade in 1096, their official adoption by the Catholic Church in 1129, the gift of land in Broadwell parish at Filkins to them in 1185 and the building of the spire using their money in about 1260. By then the Knights Templar had built a vast international financial and military empire such that the monarchs of Europe were indebted to them. King Philip IV of France pressurised Pope Clement V to declare the Knights Templar heretical and the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, was burnt at the stake in Paris in 1314. A timescale perfectly in tune with the building of this large and magnificent church and, possibly, the decline of Broadwell village to smaller proportions.
The church doesn’t face east but north-east, 45 degrees, which accords with the Templar’s practice of aligning churches with sunrise on the Patronal Saint’s day, 29th June for the Saints Peter and Paul.
All monastic orders ceased under Henry VIII and churches supported by them often fell into disrepair because villages could not adequately maintain them. Broadwell appears to have fared better as the manor held rich farming estates. The next major reconstruction came with the Victorian Restorers and one, E.G.Bruton, worked on Broadwell in 1873. He stripped the medieval plaster and paintings off the walls and reroofed the nave, chancel and transepts with a steeper pitched roof.
|Opening (1 Jan 2024 - 31 Dec 2024)