625 curious carvings in the ceiling
St Mary’s is home to over 600 roof bosses.
A roof boss is a piece of architectural decoration found where ceiling beams intersect. They are a common feature in churches, but the nature and large number of those in St Mary’s makes the church and its ceiling hugely significant.
St Mary’s roof bosses are mostly carved from wood, and are about a foot square in size. They can be found in every part of the church, and in several different styles.
The majority of the roof bosses can be dated to the 1520s, in the period when the church was being repaired following the fall of the tower.
Every boss has its own special meaning and story. Many of these stories are still recognisable to us. Use the gallery below to explore some of the bosses.
The bosses were repainted in the twentieth century, but there is every reason to believe that their current colours follow the original sixteenth-century scheme.
WHERE TO FIND THE ROOF BOSSES: everywhere inside the church – just look up! Binoculars can also be borrowed to help view the bosses.
St Mary’s bosses are the centre of our National Lottery Heritage Fund project:
Curious Carvings: Preserved and Interpreted.
Throughout this project, the bosses will be the focus of historical interpretation, and at the centre of a series of outreach and education activities. To learn more, head over to our Bosses Project pages.