The Norton Priory St.Christopher

Statue of St.Christopher 25Kb

This giant Medieval statue of St. Christopher carrying the Christ child on his shoulder, has been part of the landscape at Norton Priory since about 1400 A.D. It was probably commissioned by the first Abbot to celebrate the priory's elevation to an Abbey in the year 1391. Its original place in the abbey can only be guessed at, but would probably have been in a prominent position in the church. It was originally painted in bright colours and must have been awe inspiring. The statue can be seen on the Buck1 drawing of c.1727, in front of the Tudor mansion of Sir Thomas Brooke,Bart; that is some 30 years before the Brookes rebuilt the house in the Georgian style. After the Brookes left Norton, the mansion was pulled down in 1928. A small portion of brick wall belonging to the servants quarters was left standing and the statue stood against it, with only some corrugated metal sheets as protection. At this time the grounds surrounding the site became shooting grounds and there was a gamekeeper in residence in some nearby cottages. When the museum at Liverpool was rebuilt after WWII, Sir Richard Brooke gave the statue to the museum, and it was removed there in 1964. At that time Norton was still a derelict site. After the excavation of the former Norton Priory/Abbey and the building of a museum there to house the finds, Liverpool museum loaned the statue back to Norton for display. More recently the statue has undergone restoration, laser cleaning and investigation. It returned to Norton on Aug 24th.(1999), and is now placed in a very prominent position in the museum, with a light display and an audio presentation. It is acknowledged as one of the most important medieval statues in Europe. After the dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, and the later Cromwell commonwealth period, such statues were seen as idolatry and were destroyed. Although the Brookes supported Parliament against the King, they did not destroy the statue which they had inherited after the purchase of the Norton Abbey estates.
The statue weighs 1.25 Tonne and is carved from sandstone, which is the surface rock in the Runcorn area. It is some 3.37m. (11ft.) tall, but only about 50cms deep. It was carved to stand against a wall. The present restoration has removed its whitewash covering, and found traces of pigments, showing that it had originally been brightly coloured. After restoration it is now a light stone colour.
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The legend of Christopher

1The Buck drawings.
The brothers Samuel and Nathaniel Buck went around the country in the 18th c. making very styalised drawings, with some artist's licence, of many of the large country houses, and also of many ancient ruins, as they appeared then. They did one of Norton Priory in about 1727, before the Georgian house was built. They also did one of nearby Halton castle, built by the Barons of Halton.