The Unusual Dedications of Norfolk Churches
You may have wondered why churches are dedicated to a particular saint such as St Andrew, a religious event such as the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, a Christian doctrine such as Holy Trinity, or a group of saints, such as Holy Innocents. The decision could be influenced by many factors.
For example, churches were often founded on the site of a saint's activity, e.g. St Beza's Church in St Bees, Cumbria. Other churches were dedicated to their founder such as St Etheldreda at Ely Cathedral. A collection of relics of foreign saints has also inspired dedications, such as St Firmin's Church in Buckinghamshire. Geographical areas became associated with specific saints, e.g. the West Midlands and St Chad. As the patron saint of sailors and fishermen, you will find a church of St Nicholas in most English coastal towns. Churches of St Giles are often located near the medieval gates of fortified towns as he was the patron saint of beggars and disabled people, e.g. the Church of St Giles-without-Cripplegate in the City of London.
The consecration of a church involved an elaborate ceremony and subsequent annual celebrations with a public holiday and feast. After the Reformation, the tradition of church dedications began to fade away apart from a practical usage to differentiate churches that were positioned close together. By the 18th century many churches had forgotten their name entirely. The increase in church building during the Victorian era saw a renewed commitment to dedications and gave rise to names such as 'St Michael and All Angels' and 'All Hallows'.
Enthusiastic antiquarians and rectors digging back into parish records and coming across altar dedications are responsible for many of the later names of medieval churches. Norfolk has its fair share of unusual church dedications.