Holy Rood, Daglingworth, Glos.

At your first view of Daglingworth church, you see a small nave and chancel to which the 15th c. added a tower, and the 19th c. an N aisle and vestry. If you follow the old advice to church-crawlers and walk all the way around the exterior before going in, you upgrade your opinions. There is a slit window, and long and short work at every corner of the nave and chancel. In other words, the 15th c. W tower and Victorian N aisle are stitched onto an original Saxon church. You might have guessed this from the dedication of the church, for The Dream of the Rood is perhaps the greatest Anglo-Saxon work of literature.

The highlights are inside, in the form of three large Anglo-Saxon carvings. There’s St Peter (with key) and Christ seated in Judgement, but the best is on your left, just after you enter by the S door. It is a crucifixion, but it is unlike those familiar late medieval crucifixions. The nimbed figure of Christ is erect and alive; not dead. He is flanked by two Roman soldiers, traditionally Longinus and Stephaton – to the left, one soldier holds a spear and scourge (John 19.34), to the right, the other soldier has a sponge and a jug of vinegar (John 19.29). A Randoll Blacking ‘English’ altar of 1951 is a contrast to the Anglo-Saxon sculptures. Before you go, don’t miss the little Anglo-Saxon crucifixion above the pulpit.

Reflect upon The Dream of the Rood: ‘Wondrous that victory-beam – and I stained with sins, with wounds of disgrace. I saw glory’s tree honoured with trappings, shining with joys, decked with gold; gems had wrapped that forest tree worthily round.’

Simon Cotton