History of St.Michael’s

Bemerton Heath is a council housing estate tucked into, and up the sides of a valley on the north western side of Salisbury. It became a Conventional District and then a Parish before the 2nd World War. It was served by a Church Hall in Roman Road until this church was built in the 1950?s.
The foundation stone is at the west end of the church. It was laid by the Earl of Pembroke in April 1956.
In 1957, on 24th June, the feast day of St. John the Baptist, this church was dedicated in the name of St. Michael and All Angels by the Bishop of Salisbury (Rt Revd Dr W.L.Anderson). He was accompanied by the Bishop of Sherborne (Rt Revd J M Key); the Dean of Salisbury Cathedral (Rt Revd R.H Moberley); the ArchDeacon of Sarum (Ven F McGowan); The Diocesan Registrar (Mr A Baker); and the designer of the Risen Christ (Kate Parbury).

Many churches on a hill are dedicated to St. Michael, but this church could have been named the church of the Resurrection, as exemplified by the figure of the Risen Christ on the outside, and inside by the magnificent “Majestas” (or “Christus Rex”) over the altar.

On entering the church, the visitor is struck by the light and peace of the place – an almost ‘Franciscan’ feel – created by the simplicity, the arcading of round arches, and clean and austere colour.

The church is built unusually with the altar at the west end, because the site is on the slope of the hill. Had it been conventionally built, the entrance would have been at the top of a long flight of steps. Instead, there is room for a lower floor below the choir and altar, where there are vestries and a small chapel which doubles as a meeting room.

A bonus of this ‘wrong-way-round’ design is that at morning services, the celebrant, while facing the congregation over the large free-standing altar, also faces the rising sun through a transluscent East Window.

The Risen Christ outside was designed by Kate Parbury and faces over the housing estate served by the church. It is on the outside of the semicircular apse, and shows the risen Lord, emerging from the tomb, surrounded by angels.
The “Majestas”, or “Christus Rex” over the altar offers an important Eastern perspective to the Christian Faith in contrast to the more usual Western Crucifix. This isn‘t the image of a dying or dead Christ, but rather interprets the crucifixion in the light of St. John‘s Gospel: an image of Jesus ‘reigning from the tree’. This is Christ the King, showing, by the manner of his death, his sovereignty on the cross.

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