23 April 2021

A virtual tour of a dozen
churches whose names
celebrate Saint George

The Church of Saint Mary and Saint George, Comberford (Photograph: Dave Buckle, 2021)

Last week I updated my cover photograph on Facebook to a photograph sent to me by David Buckle of the Church of Saint Mary and Saint George in Comberford village, east of Lichfield and north of Tamworth.

The response was positive wherever I used this photograph, with Facebook friends saying they would love to visit the church and asking whether this was a photograph or a painting. Sadly, the church has been closed for the last eight years. But I thought that on Saint George’s Day (23 April 2021) it would be appropriate to invite you on a virtual tour of a dozen church dedicated to Saint George.

The architects of the Church of Saint Mary and Saint George in Comberford were Hicks and Charlewood of Newcastle-on-Tyne and the church was built by Robert Bridgeman (1844-1918), the architectural sculptor, ecclesiastical sculptor, stone carver and stonemason, who was based for most of his career at Quonians Lane in Lichfield.

Bridgeman was born in Burwell, Cambridgeshire, the son of Charles Bridgeman (1825-1903), a farmer, turf dealer and digger. Robert learned his craft with one of the large carving firms in Cambridge, such as Rattee and Kett. He married the daughter of his landlady in 1872, and by 1877 they were living in Lichfield where Robert worked on the cathedral.

He first worked from a small workshop close to Minster Pool, but later moved to larger premises in Quonians Lane, off Dam Street. Bridgeman lived on Dam Street and established his own firm in Lichfield in 1879, specialising in ecclesiastical and architectural work in wood, stone, alabaster and metal.

When the west front of Lichfield Cathedral was being restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the Bridgeman workshops produced the majority of the statues on the new façade, which include more than 100 biblical figures, saints, kings and other figures.

By 1912, Robert’s son Joseph had joined the firm and it traded as Robert Bridgeman & Son. Robert Bridgeman died on 1 March 1918.

A third generation, Charles William Bridgeman (1902-2004), son of Joseph, later joined the business It traded as Bridgeman & Sons of Lichfield until his retirement in 1968, when it was sold to Linfords and operated as Linford-Bridgeman.

The Church of Saint Mary and Saint George in Comberford was built by Bridgeman’s on a site donated in May 1914 by Howard Francis Paget (1858-1935) of Elford Hall to the Lichfield Diocesan Trust for the erection of a mission church. Howard Paget’s father, the Revd Francis Edward Paget (1806-1882), was Rector of Elford, an early follower of the Oxford Movement, and the author of Tractarian fiction, including The Curate of Cumberworth (sic) (1859).

Saint Mary’s and Saint George’s Church in Comberford closed in 2013 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bridgeman’s other works from the workshops in Lichfield include:

● The lone sailor, originally intended for a Boer War memorial in York, later given to the City of Lichfield by Robert Bridgeman in 1901, and placed on the Free Library and Museum, Bird Street, now the Registry Office.

● The statue of King Edward VII (1908) in the Museum Gardens in Beacon Park.

● The War Memorial in the Gardens of Remembrance,with its statue of Saint George.

● The medallions of George V and Queen Mary on the Bore Street façade of the Guildhall.

Until recently, the former Bridgeman premises in Lichfield had an interesting collection that has since been dispersed. This included a 1920s panel of the Last Supper, based on Bridgeman’s earlier marble frieze for Saint Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh; a carving of Saint Christopher carrying the Christ Child on his back; and a plaque warning the reader of impending death and to ‘prepare to meet thy descending God’ … with delightful punctuation, capitalisation and syntax, including perfect ‘greengrocer’s apostrophe’s’ in both clod’s and erect’s.

After Saint Mary’s and Saint George’s closed in 2013, Bridgeman’s rood in the church in Comberford was transferred by faculty to the church at Coven near Brewood in 2014.

My virtual tour this afternoon visits three churches named after Saint George in Dublin, a former church in Limerick, a chapel in Tamworth, a cathedral in Southwark, two churches in Venice, a church and a monastery in Crete, and two churches in Corfu, including the church where Prince Philip was baptised.

The pediment of the former Saint George’s Church, Hardwicke Place, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

1, Saint George’s, Hardwick Place, Dublin:

Saint George’s Day is seldom marked in Ireland, even in churches that bear his name. Dublin has North Great George’s Street, and South Great George’s Street; there is a George’s Street in Wexford, and there was once a George’s Street in Limerick, although it was renamed O’Connell Street many years ago.

I imagine there are similarly named streets in most Irish cities and large towns. In his book, Churches of the Church of Ireland Dedicated to Saint George, Duncan Scarlett records how the cult of Saint George was popular in the Pale until the Reformation.

Many of these are Georgian churches, and may have been named not in memory of Saint George but in honour of one the Hanoverian monarchs, usually King George III or King George IV.

There never was a liturgical provision for the Feast of Saint George – not even in the period when the Church of Ireland the Church of England were united, from the Act of Union in 1801 to disestablishment in 1871.

Since 1928, Saint George’s Church in Belfast has celebrated this feast day liturgically – but only since 23 April 1928. But the bells of Saint George’s in Hardwicke Place, Dublin, were rung throughout the afternoon of 23 April at one stage in the 19th century.

Saint George’s in Hardwicke Place was built after a new parish was formed out of Saint Mary’s in 1793. Thechurch was designed by Francis Johnston and built in 1802-1813 on a site donated by the Gardiner family who give their name to nearby Gardiner Street and Gardiner Square. The spire imitated that of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields in London.

In James Joyce’s Ulysses, Leopold Bloom is busy with his breakfast in the kitchen at 7 Eccles Street when he hears the sound of the bells of Saint George’s.

Saint George’s and Saint Thomas’s, Cathal Brugha Street, Dublin … closed since 24 April 2017

2, Saint George’s and Saint Thomas’s, Cathal Brugha Street, Dublin:

Saint George’s and Thomas’s Church, Cathal Brugha Street, Dublin, was built in 1931 as Saint Thomas’s Church, to replace Saint Thomas’s Church in Marlborough Street, which was burned down by anti-Treaty forces on 6 July 1922 during the Irish Civil War.

Saint Thomas’s Parish was formed in 1749. The parishes of Saint George and Saint Thomas were united in 1966, and the name of the church on Cathal Brugha Street was changed to incorporate Saint George after Saint George’s Church on Hardwicke Place closed in 1990.

With Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Discovery Gospel Choir in Saint George’s and Saint Thomas’s Church in Cathal Brugha Street, Dublin

For some years, I was involved with my friend and colleague Canon Katharine Poulton in the Discovery project which had a home in Sint George’s and Saint Thomas’s. The speakers included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, he South African ambassador Melanie Verwoerd, and Muslim and Christian leaders on an interfaith visit to Dublin.

A closing service was held on 24 April 2017 – a day after Saint George’s Day – with a promise that a new use would be found for the church within the Church of Ireland. Now, however, the future of this city centre church is uncertain.

Former parishioners have requested an emergency meeting and are calling for return of the church to its members. They say they acted in good faith when they handed over the church to the Diocesan Councils of the United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough in 2017.

Saint George’s Church, Balbriggan, Co Dublin … celebrated its bicentenary in 2013 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

3, Saint George’s, Balbriggan, Co Dublin:

The foundation stone for Saint George’s Church was laid on 23 July 1813.

High on the west tower of the church, for the first time in living memory, the inscription has been restored by local craftsman, Michael Grimes, It reads: ‘Founded by Rev George Hamilton of Hampton on the 23rd day of July in the year of our Lord 1813.’

By the early 19th century, the parish church in Balrothery was in a dilapidated state. In addition, by then most of the parishioners were living in Balbriggan, and the Hamilton family planned a new parish church or chapel-of-ease in the town.

Those plans were frustrated by resisted by successive Rectors of Balrothery. Eventually, however, the Hamiltons realised their hopes in 1813 when the Revd George Hamilton was given permission to build the new church for the people of Balbriggan under an Act of Parliament, 11 and 12 George III, 6, and the ‘chapelry of Saint George’ was founded.

Hamilton granted the land for the church and provided a substantial endowment to fund the stipend of a perpetual curate or vicar. The foundation stone was laid on 23 July 1813, and the chapel was completed in 1816. A large part of the costs were funded by Hamilton and his family.

Saint George’s was consecrated on 20 October 1816. Duncan Scarlett suggests the church was dedicated to Saint George in honour of King George III, who was then the reigning monarch. But the name may also have been chosen personally by George Hamilton.

The Revd George Hamilton was the proprietor of the village and the keeper of lighthouse – an interesting pursuit for a priest of the Church of Ireland. Hamilton and the Marquess of Lansdowne provided the funds for building the second pier in Balbriggan between 1826 and 1829, forming an inner harbour .

However, the church accidentally burned down in 1833, and another new church was built a design by Frederick Darley, with a grant of £478 from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. It reopened on 4 March 1838. Darley enlarged the church with transects in the third bay to give the building a cruciform shape. The original box pews, destroyed in the fire, were replaced with bench pews.

The two-stage tower at the west end of the church survived the fire of 1833 and was incorporated into the rebuilt church. The spire was built ca 1835 at the restoration of Saint George’s, and the parapet, buttress extensions and pinnacles may date from the same time. The tower was damaged during the Night of the Big Wind, on 6 and 7 January 1839.

Psalm 132, quoted on a plaque above the main door on the south side of tower (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The biblical text on a plaque above the main door on the south side of tower above reads:

I will not suffer mine eyes
to sleep nor mine eye-lids
to slumber • neither the
temples of my head to
take any rest;
Until I find out a place
for the temple of the Lord:, an habitation
for the mighty God of

– Psalm 132: 4-5.

The quotation may have been chosen to give thanks for rebuilding the church after the fire of 1833.

When I was ordained priest 20 years ago, my good friend, the late Canon Norman Ruddock, then Rector of Wexford, presented me with a Home Communion set that had first belonged to the Revd Dr Charles William Benson (1836-1919), who was Rector of Balbriggan from 1903 until his death in 1919.

Dr Benson was known affectionately in the parish as ‘Daddy Benson,’ and while he was Rector of Balbriggan a hundred years ago, he lived across the street from Saint George’s Church in Bedford House – now the privately-run Saint Anthony’s Nursing Home.

Dr Benson was a pioneering figure in education in the late 19th century and as headmaster of Rathmines School for over 40 years he was responsible for nurturing and encouraging the vocations of many leading bishops, priests and missionaries in the Church of Ireland. At the age of 67, he became the Rector of Saint George’s in 1903, and he was still the Rector of Balbriggan when he died at the age of 82 on 6 February 1919 in Bedford House in Church Street.

Balbriggan became an independent parish in 1871. In 1960, Balbriggan and Balrothery were united with Holmpatrick (Skerries) and Kenure (Rush).

The Bank stands on the site of the short-lived Saint George’s Church, Limerick once on the corner of George’s Street and Mallow Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

4, Saint George’s Church, Limerick:

When the mediaeval Saint Michael’s Church was destroyed in the mid-17th century, it was not rebuilt, and the Church of Ireland parish in that part of Limerick was left without a church building for over 100 years.

In the 1760s, work began on building a new church at the corner of George’s Street with Thomas Street and Bedford Row. The planned church was to have a pivotal position at the centre of a polygonal piazza and would have been visible from the river. This might have given the street a vista similar to that created by Saint George’s Church in Hardwicke Place, Dublin.

The foundation stone was laid in 1767, and the new church was planned as an octagonal building. The octagonal outline for the church can be seen in Christopher Colles’s map of Newtown Pery in 1769.

The map does not include the Crescent, first known as Richmond Place, nor does it include Pery Square. The location of the new church in the centre of the new main thoroughfare, to be known as George’s Street (now O’Connell Street), reflected the place of the Church of Ireland in Georgian society. The name of the church and the street were chosen to honour King George III and not the English patron saint.

The original site on George’s Street for Saint George’s Church was at the junction with Thomas Street and Bedford Row Bank (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The new church would have served the original residents of Newtown Pery. But, for some unknown reason, the church was never built at the first chosen location. The site was changed to a place further south, originally surrounded by green fields, as can be seen on Sauthier’s Map of Limerick in 1786.

The unfished church was dismantled and the materials from the site were reused as the Pery family built and endowed Saint George’s Church on the corner of George’s Street and Mallow Street.

Saint George’s was completed in 1789-1791 at a cost of £507. It, was a modest building and was never intended to serve as a parish church. In Church Law, it was a chapel of ease to Saint Mary’s Cathedral. It was an interim solution for the new suburbs being developed in Newtown Pery at the turn of the 18th and 19th century by the Pery family. The Archdeacon of Limerick, the Ven William Wray Maunsell, remained the Rector of Saint Michael’s, and so a curate was appointed to Saint George’s, with the curate’s stipend paid by the Earl of Limerick.

The new church was described as a plain, commodious building that could seat 300 people, and its lofty east window once belonged to the old Franciscan Abbey in Limerick. It was called the Round Church, and at first it was in the middle of a green field.

At first it was surrounded by green fields. Later, the map of ‘Part of South Prior’s Land’ (1823) and McKern’s Map (1827) place it at the junction of George’s Street and Mallow Street.

But the church only last for about 40 years. It was demolished in 1831, as Saint Michael’s Church was being built on the corner of Barrington Street and Pery Square. Both the Limerick Evening Post and Clare Sentinel reported on 9 September 1831 that ‘St George’s Church Limerick is to be forthwith taken down and on its site will be erected an edifice for transacting the business of the Provincial Bank.’

With the demolition of Saint George’s Church, Saint Michael’s Parish was once again without a church from 1831 until Saint Michael’s was completed and consecrated.

On the site of Saint George’s Church, the Provincial Bank of Ireland built a five-bay, three-storey over basement limestone bank to the designs of James Pain. The Provincial Bank opened in 1834, with the address 63 George’s Street, and the money generated from the sale of Saint George’s to the bank provided the bulk of the sum required to build Saint Michael’s Church.

But once again there was no Church of Ireland church in the parish, apart from the privately-owned Trinity Episcopal Church in Catherine Street. While the rector of the parish had the spiritual care of the parishioners, they were without a church building. Some of the parishioners met in the Primitive Methodist chapel until 1843. However, the Methodists gave notice that year that they would withdraw the privilege grated to Saint Michael’s parishioners.

An application was made to the Church Commissioners and a sum of money was granted to complete the unfinished church. By Act of Parliament, the Revd Pryce Peacock, who was the curate of Saint George’s and lived nearby in the Crescent, was appointed the first curate of Saint Michael’s.

The Provincial Bank of Ireland, established in 1825, merged in the 20th century with the Royal Bank of Ireland and the Munster and Leinster Bank to form Allied Irish Banks.

Today, the former Provincial Bank building is the Bank Bar and Restaurant at the corner of 63 O’Connell Street and 1 Mallow Street.

Saint George’s Cathedral, Southwark … first designed by AWN Pugin in 1848 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

5, Saint George’s Cathedral, Southwark:

Saint George’s Cathedral, Southwark, is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark.

Father Thomas Doyle (1793-1879), the son of Irish immigrants, first came to Saint George’s Chapel in Southwark in 1820. He acquired the site of the future Saint George’s, then the Royal Belgian Chapel, and bought part of Saint George’s Fields, a site associated with the anti-Catholic Gordon riots in 1780.

The cathedral was designed by Pugin, who was critical of Henry Rose’s work at this time in Saint Saviour’s, later the other Southwark Cathedral. The funds available did not match Pugin’s first ambitious plans, however, and he was forced to compromise his design. The money for the upper part of the tower and a spire was never found.

The church was solemnly opened on 4 July 1848 by Bishop Nicholas Wiseman, later Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, Archbishop of Westminster. Pugin was the first person to be married in Saint George’s, when he married his third wife Jane Knill there on 10 August 1848.

Two years later, when Pope Pius IX restored the Roman Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales in 1850, Saint George’s was chosen as the cathedral of the new Diocese of Southwark, which was to cover the whole of Southern England.

Saint George’s was one of the first four Roman Catholic churches in England and Wales – and the first in London – to become a cathedral since the English Reformation. Thomas Doyle, who became the Provost of Saint George’s, died in 1879.

For half a century, Saint George’s remained the centre of Roman Catholic life in London until Westminster Cathedral opened in 1903.

Saint George’s was the venue for the funeral Mass of the nationalist Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence MacSwiney, in October 1920 after he died on hunger strike in Brixton Prison.

Inside Saint George’s Cathedral … chosen as the cathedral of the new Diocese of Southwark in 1850 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A German bomb hit the cathedral on the night of 16 April 1941, starting a fire that destroyed the wooden roof and much of the cathedral. An adjoining hall became the pro-cathedral, and the architect Romilly Bernard Craze (1892-1974) was commissioned to rebuild the cathedral.

Work began in 1953, and in the new cathedral, Craze tried to blend an Arts and Crafts and Gothic Revival styles with surviving elements of the pre-war building. He used different types of Gothic used to suggest age, as in ancient cathedrals built over different time periods. The Day Chapel (1963) has a Tudor-derived pattern, while the Baptistry (1966) was inspired by the Perpendicular.

The addition of the clerestory introduced light, air and a grandeur that were previously lacking. But once again, there was no money for the upper part of the tower and a spire.

The rebuilt cathedral was consecrated on 4 July 1958, and solemnly opened by Bishop Cyril Cowderoy. When the Diocese of Southwark became a metropolitan see in 1965, Bishop Cowderoy became the first Archbishop of Southwark.

The Pre-Raphaelite East Window in Saint George’s Chapel by Sir Edward Burne-Jones (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

6, Saint George’s Chapel, Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth:

The Tamworth and District Civic Society invited me to speak in Saint Editha’s Collegiate Church, Tamworth, two years ago on the Comberford family of Comberford Hall and the Moat House on Lichfield Street, Tamowrth.

Visitors to Saint Editha’s are easily taken aback by the windows in the church, and by the number of side chapels, dating back to its days as a collegiate church with a large number of priests, each in need of an altar to celebrate Mass daily.

The surviving chapels include Saint Catherine’s Chapel, generally known as the Comberford Chapel, and Saint George’s Chapel. When I spoke there in 2019, the venue was Saint George’s Chapel, and the reception was held in the Comberford Chapel.

A four-light window by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris in Saint George’s Chapel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The real treasure in the church is the Pre-Raphaelite East Window in Saint George’s Chapel by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. This window is a memorial to Sir John Peel (1804-1872), MP for Tamworth. The window, known as ‘Angels of Creation,’ connects the story of the six days of creation with redemption. The glass is by William Morris. The central figure is Saint Christopher carrying the Christ Child, and lower panels depict Old Testament prophets and New Testament saints.

Saint George’s Chapel also has four sets of four-light windows, including one set by Burne-Jones and William Morris, one by William Morris and two sets by the Camm Brothers.

San Giorgio Maggiore can be seen clearly from Saint Mark’s Square (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

7, Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice:

San Giorgio Maggiore can be seen clearly from Saint Mark’s Square. It is a landmark building just beyond the entrance to the Grand Canal, yet it is visited by few tourists during their brief stay in Venice. But this 16th-century Benedictine church on an island that shares the same name is of architectural importance and was designed by the great architect of Venice, Andrea Palladio.

The church, which was built between 1566 and 1610, is a basilica in the classical renaissance style. Its white marble gleams above the blue water of the lagoon opposite the Piazza San Marco, and it forms the focal point of the view from every part of the Riva degli Schiavoni.

The first church on the island was built about 790, and in 982 the island was given to the Benedictine order by the Doge Tribuno Memmo. The Benedictines founded a monastery there, but in 1223 all the buildings on the island were destroyed by an earthquake.

The church and monastery on the island were rebuilt after the earthquake. The church, which had a nave with side chapels, was not in the same position as the present church, but stood farther back at the side of a small campo or square. The cloisters in front were demolished in 1516, and from 1521 the monks began planning a new church.

The church and monastery were built by Palladio in the late 16th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Palladio arrived in Venice in 1560, when the refectory of the monastery was being rebuilt. He made improvements to this, and in 1565 he was asked to prepare a model for a new church.

His model was completed in 1566 and the foundation stone was laid in the presence of the Pope that year. The work was not finished before Palladio died in 1580, but the body of the church was complete by 1575 apart from the choir behind the altar and the façade. The decoration of the interior was completed later and the choir was built between 1580 and 1589.

Work on the façade began in 1599 and was completed in 1610.

The campanile or bell tower is a landmark on the skyline of Venice, but was not designed by Palladio. It was first built in 1467, fell in 1774, and rebuilt in neo-classic style by 1791.

The façade of the church is a brilliant white and represents Palladio’s solution to the difficulty of adapting a classical façade to the form of this church, with its high nave and low side aisles. On either side of the central portal are statues of Saint George and of Saint Stephen, the patrons of the church.

Two very large paintings by Jacopo Tintoretto, ‘The Last Supper’ and ‘The Fall of Manna,’ depict the institution of the Eucharist. In the Cappella dei Morti or mortuary, a second painting by Tintoretto depicts ‘The Entombment of Christ.’

A chapel associated with the Morosini family, who gave their name to the Morisini fountain in Iraklion in Crete, is dedicated to Saint Andrew. Here a painting by Jacopo and Domenico Tintoretto depicts ‘The Risen Christ and Saint Andrew with Vincenzo Morosini and members of his family.’ Other works in the chapel are by Jacopo and Domenico Tintoretto and Leandro Bassano.

Chiesa di San Giorgio dei Greci, with its leaning bell tower (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

8, Chiesa di San Giorgio dei Greci, Venice:

A significant Greek community has lived close to Ponte dei Greci (the Bridge of the Greeks) since the 11th century, when the first Greek artisans arrived to decorate Saint Mark's Basilica and many of the early churches of Venice. They expanded significantly with the influx of refugees following the Turkish capture of Constantinople in 1453.

The church of San Giorgio dei Greci, with its leaning bell tower – similar to the contemporaneous tower of Saint Spyridon in Corfu – was built at a cost of 15,000 gold ducats between 1539 and 1573, and the vivid iconostasis or icon screen was painted by Michael Damaskinos, the greatest Cretan iconographer of the day and a contemporary of El Greco.

As the Serene Republic lost its Greek colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries, Greeks continued to flood into Venice, and their presence helped to spread classical culture throughout Europe. A whole Greek neighbourhood took shape around the church on the banks of the Rio dei Greci, and at its peak the Greek community numbered 15,000 people.

Napoleon’s abolition of the Republic of Venice in 1797 marked the beginning of the decline of this prosperous community as their assets and church treasures were confiscated. However, a convent of Greek nuns and their girls' school survived until 1834, and until 1905 the Greek College provided Greek communities in the Ottoman territories with educated priests and teachers.

Despite their decline in recent generations, the small Greek community continues in Venice. The Collegio Flangini now houses the Hellenic Institute for Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Studies, a museum in the former Scuola di San Nicolo dei Greci displays a unique collection of icons, and San Giorgio dei Greci has become a cathedral, with an archbishop living in the old palace.

The modern Church of the Ascension and Saint George in Panormos (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

9, Aghios Georgios, Panormos:

Almost every town in Greece has a church named after Saint George, and almost every village – even the newest of resources – has a small church. There is a symbiotic relationship between the names of small villages and their small churches: did the church give the village its name, or did the church take its name from the village?

For some years, it has been something of a tradition during holidays in Rethymnon to spend lazy, sunny Sunday afternoons in the small coastal village of Panormos, about 25 km east of Rethymnon, visiting the church dedicated to Saint George, and enjoying lingering lunches in the restaurants, including the Agkyra, Porto Parasiris and Captain’s House.

These lunches often become hours of uninterrupted bliss, sipping coffee, reading books and watching life in the small harbour and beaches below.

Christ the Pantocrator in the dome of the Church of Aghios Georgios in Panormos on Easter Day in 2019 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The recently built church in Panormos is dedicated to the Ascension (Analipsi) and Saint George (Agios Georgios) and it has a splendid dome with a modern, majestic fresco of Christ the Pantocrator.

Behind the village are the remains of the Agia Sophia Basilica, once one of the largest basilicas in Crete. The site is fenced off and there are few signs indicating its importance. The basilica was built in the fifth and sixth centuries. According to archaeologists, this was the seat of the Diocese of Eleftherna, which transferred there after the destruction of the ancient city of Panormos. In time, the name Agia Sophia was given to the entire area around the basilica.

The Basilica of Agia Sofia was uncovered following research by the theologian Konstantinos Kalokiris, and the site was excavated in 1948-1955 by the archaeologist Professor N. Platonas.

The Monastery of Aghios Georgios in Karydi was founded around 1600 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

10, The Monastery of Saint George, Karydi, Crete:

The Monastery of Saint George in Karydi is about 2 km south-east of the village of Vamos, between Rethymnon and Chania in Crete. It is best-known as an architectural monument because of its former olive oil factory with its 12 arches and the remains of four olive mills.

The monastery was founded ca 1600, took its name from a settlement in an area abundant with walnut trees.

When the Turks captured Crete later in the 17th century, they realised the strategic location of the monastery on a road linking Sfakia and Vamos. But the monastery survived with the help of the Monastery of Aghia Triada at Tzagarolon, near Chania.

In the 19th century, the monks bought the properties of the Muslim residents in the locality, and gradually the monastery became an important place of work. The monastery’s property and estates expanded rapidly, as many people left bequests and legacies or donated their land to the monastery, including even some Turks.

The scale of olive oil production at the monastery was so great, that an impressive olive oil factory with four mills was built here in 1863. The size of the factory and the existence of four oil mills is evidence of the enormous quantities of olive oil once produced here.

Several monks moved from Aghia Triada to Karydi, and rebuilt the church its present form in 1850-1880. A reliquary in the church is said to hold a small part of a bone of Saint George.

A reliquary in the monastery church holds what is said to be a small part of a bone of Saint George (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The last monk left the monastery of Aghios Georgios in 1900, and five years later, in 1905, part of the monastery land is ceded to local farmers and the monastery became forlorn and deserted.

The rest of the monastery lands were granted in 1922 to Greek veterans of the Balkan wars and the Asia Minor campaign. The monastery and many of the surrounding olive groves were destroyed around 1923.

For many years, the monastery was left abandoned. However, the Greek Ministry of Culture began working with Bishop Irenaeus Galanakis in 1986 on a plan to restore the monastery.

Almost a century after the last monks left Aghios Georgios, one lone monk, Father Dorotheos, moved back into the monastery in 1996. He continues to live there, and with the support of local people he is continuing the restoration of the monastery and the church, and welcoming visitors.

The Church of Saint George, above the long sandy beach of Agios Georgios in south-west Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

11, Saint George’s Church, Aghios Georgios, Corfu:

There are two resorts in Corfu named after Agios Georgios or Saint St George, one in the north, and one in the south-west. I stayed last year in Agios Georgios South, near the town small town of Argirades, and about 35 km from Corfu town.

The village, with its long sandy beach, lies to the south of the Lake Korission and is surrounded by olive groves, and boasting an amazing sandy beach. Even at the end of summer last year, this was a quiet, welcoming, family-friendly resort, suitable for a laid-back relaxing holiday, long days on the beach, walks by the saltwater lake, and evenings in the coastal tavernas for you to enjoy.

Inside the church in Agios Georgios … on a mid-week day (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

But Agios Georgios is a long way from most of Corfu’s other villages, towns and places of interest, although an irregular bus service connects the village to Corfu Town and beyond.

An indication of the resort’s isolation dawned on my first Sunday morning when I waited and waited for the small Church of Agios Georgios … and waited. I managed to visit the church when it was being cleaned on a weekday, but I spent the following Sunday visiting the monasteries of Meteora.

Saint George’s Church was an Anglican and garrison church in Corfu until 1864 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

12, Saint George’s Church (Anglican), Corfu:

There has been an Anglican presence in Corfu since 1814 Corfu, when Corfu and the other Ionian Islands became a British Protectorate. The High Commissioner, the administrators, and the soldiers and sailors based in Corfu, required a place of worship, and a chapel was built in the Doric style in the Old Fortress and was named Saint George.

Saint George’s remained the garrison church until 1864, when Corfu and the other Ionian Islands were incorporated into the modern Greek state. The Greek Parliament in Athens wanted to turn the old fortress into a military base, and Saint George’s became an Orthodox church.

Indeed, this was the church where the late Prince Philip, later the Duke of Edinburgh, was baptised according to the rites of the Greek Orthodox Church in 1921.

Charles Eamer Kempe’s window depicting Saint George (right) and Saint John the Baptist in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Collect (Common Worship):

God of hosts,
who so kindled the flame of love
in the heart of your servant George
that he bore witness to the risen Lord
by his life and by his death:
give us the same faith and power of love
that we who rejoice in his triumphs
may come to share with him the fullness of the resurrection;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

A window depicting Saint Richard and Saint George – commemorating family names – in the Dyott Chapel in Saint Mary’s Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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