Ss Peter and Paul, Eye, Suffolk

Eye church has a brilliant location, an eye-stopper at the end of its street near the centre of this market town. And of course it is the tower that does it. If you have been to Laxfield, you spot the similarity – Laxfield’s tower was begun slightly earlier, around 1444, almost a dry run for Eye. In 1453, Thomas Colman left 40s to Eye tower; after that money came thick and fast. In 1470 along, £40 was raised, ‘chiefly of the frank and devoute hartes of the people’ as a late medieval document puts it.

The tower probably took around 30 years to complete, and shows 15th century Suffolk at its best, rich in flint and stone flushwork from top to bottom. Very soon afterwards they built a new S. aisle, and its porch shows brick infilling, as this new material came into East Anglia. You enter through the tower, and will be struck by the bright and open interior. This owes a lot to the roodscreen, whose saints were painted just after 1500, and which was given the treatment by Ninian Comper, who put back the loft and rood in 1925, adding his characteristic angels, wheels and all.

Cross over to the North aisle, to the shrine of Our Lady. Carved by Lough Pendred, the statue commemorates Canon Donald Rea, parish priest 1934–66 and chairman of the Anglican Confraternity of Unity. When Canon Rea had an audience with Pope John XXIII in 1959, the Pope noticed the well-used state of Canon Rea’s breviary and in a characteristic gesture he gave the Canon his own, still containing John’s family memorial cards, including one for his father.

Pope John XXIII said: ‘In working for reunion it is necessary firstly to be very meek and humble, secondly to be patient and know how to await God’s hour.’

Simon Cotton

Map reference: TM144739