Saturday, 16 June 2018

Dust to dust

Just past the ancient Roman amphitheatre outside the city walls of Chester, lies the Church of St. John the Baptist.

The building is a mixture of Norman and early English Gothic architecture, and is much smaller than it once was. A still-functioning Anglican church now sits nestled within great sandstone ruins that speak to its former size and glory. St. John’s is notable, too, in that it has a long history of falling down: Towers collapsed in 1468, 1572, 1574, and 1881.

The arches at the Eastern end of the site include both Norman and Early English styles.

In what remains of the church’s western tower, set high into one of the Gothic arches, is a wooden coffin.

An account from the 19th century suggests that a church sexton discovered the coffin while digging a grave in a disused section of the cemetery. The rector ordered it placed high up on the wall, out of reach (but not of sight) of curious passersby.   The coffin is carved entirely out of one block of oak and although its age is uncertain it probably dates to the 13th century. The vivid inscription bearing the words “Dust to Dust” is likely a Victorian rather than a medieval addition.


  1. It does look interesting, more interesting than most ruins. Although a bit unlucky, if the towers kept falling down! :) I think you are right about "Dust to Dust" being Victorian, or at least it seems like an incredibly Victorian thing to do!

  2. How interesting that they found this coffin and then, to think of embedding it, so to speak, into the wall!
    You know, at an Ash Wednesday service once, I remember hearing these words, "Remember that 'dust to dust' was never spoken of the soul."
    This just stayed with me.

  3. This i would love to see, a church partly intact and partly in ruins — it looks fascinating.

  4. That coffin is a wonderful find. Good for all kinds of photography and I am sure history. Amazing that it has retained its integrity all this time. I do love that old architecture.

  5. I've always had a fascination with old church and abbey ruins (and castles too)... Thanks for taking us along :)

  6. What a curious thing to have an empty coffin high up on the wall - it must be unique, I have never heard or seen something like this at another church.
    Beautiful sandstone!


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