St Joseph, St Nicholas and St Thomas More RC Churches Gloucestershire

St James’s Church Postlip

Appeal for urgent necessary work

Parishioners will know that Mass takes place at 11am on the First Friday of the month when we can be sure of good weather. The chapel is now closed for winter.

Our first Mass in 2024 will be on Friday 3rd May at 11.00am.

This year, on the Feast of St James, Holy Mass was concelebrated by Fathers Joby, Tony and Paul with a congregation of fifty people from four of the surrounding churches. The atmosphere was truly beautiful and all were able to appreciated the special atmosphere in a candle-lit place which spoke of the continuity of our faith over the centuries. Refreshments were enjoyed afterwards in the lovely grounds.

The beautiful interior

Many parishioners of St Nicholas will have visited this church in previous years and been enchanted by its antiquity and setting. It is hoped that people from across our three parishes will find this beautiful old church when we reopen late Spring 2023.

Building work that needs to be attended to has been discussed and this will be taken in hand, following further consultation with Clifton and the involvement of our Health & Safety/Buildings Manager.

Background and history

St James Church is a small, two-cell Norman chapel, restored to Catholic use at the end of the nineteenth century when ornate carved stone decoration was applied internally. The chapel forms part of an important historic group with PostlipHall and its medieval tithe barn. This Norman chapel, reputedly founded by William de Solers about 1139, was used as a farm building for several centuries.

It was restored for Catholic use in 1890-91 for Mr and Mrs Stuart Forster, Catholic converts and friends of Cardinal Manning who had acquired the adjacent Postlip Hall. The chapel was re-consecrated by Bishop Clifford on 16 June 1891. The chapel, built of local stone with a stone-slated roof, is a two-cell structure, consisting of a Norman nave and chancel with a seventeenth-century bell turret with ball finial above the chancel arch, and a northwest sacristy added in 1890-1 at the time of the building’s restoration and return to Catholic use. Late Perpendicular east and west windows have been inserted but a small original Norman window with widely splayed internal jambs remains on each side of both nave and chancel. The Norman south doorway has chevron mouldings at right angles on the arch, with ball enrichments in the hoodmould above, star diapering to the abaci and lintel, a recessed tympanum ornamented with overlapping fishscales and jamb shafts with scalloped capitals. The doorway itself has a later three-centred arch. The interior, with exposed stonework pointed in grey cement, retains its Norman chancel arch with chevron, star and billet decoration. 

St James Postlip
The exterior of the chapel

The Chapel is Grade 1 listed; this means building permission is required for demolition, extension or alteration in a way that will affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest. 

Religious use: the Chapel is consecrated and used occasionally for masses, often held on or near St James’s Day (July 25th).

It should be noted there are no services on the site. Access is through the grounds of Postlip Hall and limited parking is available, courtesy of Postlip Hall. There is an established right of way to the grounds of the Chapel. Access for those with disability is limited.

We have this statue of St Cecilia at Postlip.

Reflection on the sculpture

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Cecilia. Little is know about her life. Born in Rome in the late 2nd Century AD, she suffered martyrdom circa 230AD under Roman Emperor Alexander Severus (reign 13 March 222 – 22 March 235). According to legend, despite her vow of virginity, her parents forced her to marry a pagan nobleman named Valerian. During the wedding, Cecilia sat apart singing to God in her heart, and for that, she was later declared the saint of musicians. When the time came for her marriage to be consummated, Cecilia told her husband that watching over her was an angel of the Lord, who would punish him if he sexually violated her but would love him if he respected her virginity. According to legend, when Valerian asked to see the angel, Cecilia replied that he could see the angel if he would go to the third milestone on the Via Appia and be baptised by Pope Urban I. Out of love for his wife, he followed her advise and then saw the angel standing beside her, crowning her with a chaplet of roses and lilies.

Today’s marble sculpture of Saint Cecilia by Stefano Maderno, executed in 1599-1600, shows Cecilia extending three fingers with her right hand and one with her left, testifying to the Trinity: one God , three persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). The sculpture beautifully conveys a heaviness which recalls the weight of a body no longer living. Note also the thin but very noticeable slash in Cecilia’s neck, the mark of her beheading.

Stefano Maderno’s sculpture is said to replicate the way that Antonio Bosio (born in Malta in 1575, he was the founder of Christian archeology in Rome and the first scholar to apply the study of ancient Christian texts to a systematic investigation of the Roman catacombs) described the Saint at the moment of her discovery: ‘namely on her side, uncorrupt, clothed in drapery, and with her veiled hair turned eerily towards the ground’. This fostered a legend that our sculpture was modelled on the very corpse of St Cecilia herself. However, it has since been concluded that the statue is Maderno’s own composition, inspired by the words of Bosio as well as studies of ancient sculptures.

by Father Patrick van der Vorst