Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Church in the Country

It was a murky, gray, drizzly day when I recently visited The Church of the Holy Innocents at South Canterbury's Mount Peel Station. It wasn't my first visit - and not the first time I had enjoyed the beauty of this little architectural gem.
The church sits across a stream from the stunning Mount Peel Homestead, which belongsd to the Acland family - one of the early settling families of the South Canterbury region. The church was built in 1868 and its dedication to the Holy Innocents of St Matthew's Gospel is especially appropriate, as four young children who had died in infancy between 1864 and 1869, are buried on the hillside where the church now stands.
Anyone reading this blog regularly, will know that I have a particular interest in photographing church architecture - not for any particularly religious reasons but rather more for the fact that I find church architecture inspiring; and the interior of churches say so much about their communities from a sociological point of view. And it's the details that draw me in. I am of course in awe of big grand churches and the cavernous, beautifully detailed interiors that many of them present (many of those appear on this blog) but there's something about the small, humble, New Zealand country church, often tucked away down dusty side roads, that touches me more.
This particular churchyard is also famous for the fact that it is the burial place of internationally-regarded, New Zealand born crime writer and theatre director, Dame Ngaio March (1895-1982), who published 32 detective novels between 1934 and 1982 and was regarded as one of the world's 'Queens of Crime Writing.'
The stained glass window (above), above the church altar, is a memorial to J.B.A. Acland (1823-1904) and his wife, Emily, who first established the Mount Peel property.
The church was constructed from stone gathered in the local river and limestone brought from Mount Somers by bullock wagon. And like most of these small country churches, it is richly embellished with interior timbers from nearby native forests.

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