Church of St. Peter & St. Paul - Atlas Obscura

AO Edited

Church of St. Peter & St. Paul

Pickering, England

Remarkable medieval wall paintings decorate this 12th-century, dog-friendly church. 


Northeast of Leeds, England is the small town of Pickering in the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire. The small town’s parish church, the Church of St. Peter & St. Paul, features remarkable original medieval wall paintings and welcomes both human and canine visitors. The first church on the site was built by the Anglo-Saxons. But the church was later rebuilt around 1140 following a Norman design. Later additions were then added in the 13th and 14th centuries. The church’s famous medieval wall paintings were most likely commissioned and painted in the mid-14th century based on the costumes of some of the figures and what is known about that time period.

The paintings feature images of people, some with armor, alongside horses and dragons, and they depict Christ’s passion, including the crucifixion, and resurrection. There is a guidebook in the Church’s bookstall that gives the details of each scene. These paintings are one of only five sets still in existence in the country and give insights into the popular beliefs of the medieval period.

These wonderful paintings were whitewashed over around the time of the Reformation and definitely during the spread of Puritanism in the 16th century. Rediscovered in 1852 when the nave was being repaired and cleaned only to be covered again with a thick yellow wash by the order of the vicar at the time, the Reverend Ponsonby, who thought they were ridiculous and would distract the congregation. Luckily, W. H. Dykes, an assistant architect at Durham Cathedral, made drawings of the paintings.

There was an extensive restoration of the church in the 1870s with box pews being replaced with oak pews and two of the galleries dismantled. And in the 1880s, a firm was contracted to restore the medieval paintings, a long and painstaking process that wasn’t completed until 1895.

The Church has played an important role in Pickering for nearly a thousand years, serving generations of residents who worshipped, baptized, married, and had their funerals within the stone walls of this parish church. Today, the church is still active and part of the Church of England Diocese of York. Services are held every Sunday and Holy Communion is every Wednesday. The large congregation continues the thousand-year-old tradition of prayer and worship.

A peaceful place for private prayer and reflection and to see a beautiful part of history. Dogs are also welcome inside the church. 

Know Before You Go

The Church is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm during the summer months, except during services. 

Access is up a fairly steep slope.

Pickering is a small town with a lot of heritage. There is the Pickering Castle, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, and a wonderful tea room called Botham's of Whitby, along with shopping in the heart of the town. 

In partnership with KAYAK

Plan Your Trip

From Around the Web