Medieval church’s saint to get a revamp

Architectural restorer Annie Holdsworth puts the final touches to the statue of St Giles which is situated above the doorway of the 900 year-old church in Gilesgate, Durham.
Architectural restorer Annie Holdsworth puts the final touches to the statue of St Giles which is situated above the doorway of the 900 year-old church in Gilesgate, Durham.
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THE patron saint of healing has undergone “surgery” after crumbling under the stress of time.

The 4ft-high statue of St Giles stands above the main entrance to the parish church bearing his name in Gilesgate, Durham, and has been restored after the foot of the stone wore away.

The church is a Grade I-listed building and this year celebrates the 900th anniversary of its consecration.

The work on the statue was given the go-ahead after the City of Durham Freemen donated £2,000 towards the cost of the professional restoration of the piece.

The statue of the saint, a 7th-century hermit in southern France, was erected in 1876.

At the end of the Second World War the statue was given a coating of a plastic-type paint in a bid to help protect it from the ravages of time.

Before the latest overhaul, which will be completed this week, the wartime paint was removed and the missing parts of his mitre and facial features restored.

A missing stone crosier is to be replaced with a wooden one and two colourful coats of arms alongside have also been returned to their former glory.

The vicar of St Giles, the Reverend Canon Dr Alan Bartlett said the statue was one of the most visible features of the church.

He added: “The church is a familiar landmark and I hope people passing by get a buzz out of seeing the restored figure and the sense of life and welcome it communicates.

“We are very grateful to the freemen. The statue’s facelift is one of the central themes of our celebrations.”

During the past seven years the organisation’s eight craft guilds, whose own historic trade and commercial links are believed to stretch back to the early 14th century, have donated £80,000 to a range of causes across the city’s boundaries.

The chairman of the freemen’s wardens, John Heslop, said: “Today’s freemen represent the legions of skilled working people who were a vital part of the fabric and evolution of the city over nearly 700 years.

“Not least through our charitable giving, the legacy of those craft and trade guilds remains very much a work in progress.”