Walking from my car toward the ancient church in the small English village of Hales (population 468) I couldn't help thinking that I had found perhaps the most picture-perfect of all the churches I have ever visited.
St. Margaret's Church, still consecrated by the Church of England, is a redundant church in care of the Churches Conservation Trust. The nonprofit organization looks after churches that are no longer actively used for worship.
As a result, it's almost like a real life time capsule — a specimen of an era when the parish church was the center of English village life.
And in the case of St. Margaret's, it's a fine example of Norman (also called Romanesque) architecture.
The architectural style, known for its rounded arches, came into use on these shores after 1066, when the Normans from present-day France conquered the Anglo-Saxons. It would remain dominant until the introduction of the Gothic-style with its telltale pointed arch.
St. Margaret's age — the oldest parts are early 12th century — is evident from magnificent carved doorways in the north and south walls with their typical zigzag detailing.
Other notable features are the thatched roof and round west tower, a feature relatively common to churches in England's Norfolk and Suffolk counties but almost unheard of elsewhere.
If you go
St. Margaret's Church is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.
Spires and Crosses, a travel column exclusive to The Christian Post, is published every week.