Historical Overview


Christianity was brought to Britain in the time of the Romans.  When the Romans left, invading pagan Jutes, Saxons and Angles drove Christianity out to the remoter regions, where it survived until Irish missionaries reintroduced the faith to England, via Iona and then Lindisfarne.  They established a number of monasteries for prayer, worship and teaching. One such monastery was founded here in AD 654, by St Cedd, ten years before the Synod of Whitby.

Whilst the first monastery church in Lastingham was almost certainly wooden, it is known that a stone church was built on this site in 725.  However, the earliest parts of the current church, including the crypt, date from 1078.

A parish church since at least 1228, St Mary’s is famous for is unique apsidal crypt. The crypt was built possibly on or near the vicinity of the earlier 7th century structure and is thought to be part of the huge Benedictine Abbey planned by Stephen of Whitby in 1078.  Evidence of this proposed abbey can be seen throughout the church structure.  But sadly it was never completed, as Stephen abandoned the project, went to York and built St Mary’s Abbey there instead.

A major restoration was carried out in 1879 under the guidance of the eminent Victorian architect, JL Pearson RA, and the transverse arches and magnificent stone vaulted roof date from then.


Today, St Mary's church is one of a group of five churches in a Benefice served by our Vicar, The Right Revd William Godfrey: St Chad's, Hutton le Hole; St Gregory's, Cropton; Christ Church, Appleton le Moors; St Mary & St Laurence, Rosedale Abbey.

Like all rural churches we face many challenges. However, we continue to be what this church was founded for many centuries ago: a place of prayer, worship, study and hospitality; a sign of the beauty and generosity of God.  All are supported entirely by donations from parishioners, visitors and by fundraising events. 

We welcome visitors, and we are open during daylight hours, 365 days a year, providing a space for tranquillity and reflection.  Many people come in and visit our famous crypt where they can light a candle, say a prayer or perhaps fill in one of the Prayer Request slips.  If you wish to bring a group to visit we can arrange for someone to guide you round St Mary's church explaining some of the history.

Page last updated: 6th Sep 2019 11:31 AM