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a life in architecture

Churches have always fascinated author and journalist Simon Jenkins, and English churches in particular, on which he writes a regular column in Country Life. He regards them as the vernacular museums of the country where the history, faith, arts and crafts and architecture of each community can be traced through the ages. Of the churches which he says have left him gasping, he first names the great double north porch of St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol. 'It is encrusted with Oriental and Gothic motifs and it tells you all about the history of Bristol'.

Next comes a church he considers to be one of the finest in England, at Patrington in Yorkshire. Built between the late thirteenth and mid- fourteenth centuries, this is one of the most complete works of the Late Decorated Gothic period. Then there are the little spaces: the deeply moving crypt of Lastingham Church on the North York Moors, with its giant tenth to eleventh century capitals 'which look as if they had been left out of some Pantheon and were trying to hark back to the days of the Roman Empire'.

Jenkins' favourite London church is Hawksmoor's theatrical masterpiece, Christ Church, (pictured) overlooking the market in Spitalfields. He is infuriated by its neglected condition. 'If Christ Church were in Italy it would have been restored by now,' he says.

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