St Martin’s is my favourite central Birmingham church. I attended it when I lived in a nearby apartment for 2 years and also did some voluntary work, assisting homeless people on the help desk.
It is hard to get a full shot of the building so the photograph below has been lifted from the internet.
Birmingham’s original parish church had been on this same site since 1213 but was demolished in 1873 for the construction of this one today.
As a Grade II listed building, St Martin’s could not be touched when all the major refurbishment of Birmingham’s famous Bullring went on in 2003. And so the ancient steeple and the modern art of Selfridges (kind of) live in harmony together. This shot was taken from the top of the Birmingham tour bus.
Just like in St Philip’s Cathedral (see previous blog), there is Burne-Jones art here in stained glass format although not on such a grand scale.
I once took my friend’s teenage daughter who was staying with me one Easter to encourage her in the faith. Unfortunately it was a day when a confused preacher announced Jesus had been crucified by the “Germans” and a disturbed parishioner chap bellowed out “What a load of old bollocks!”. The church’s motto (possibly hijacked from the Nirvana track) is “Come as you are” so the leaders are not exactly in a position to become too upset at belligerent mind states. I was moved to see a kind female member of the clergy go and sit next to the elderly gent, place her arm around him and calm him down.
On the day I toured the church recently, I was most pleased to see that the bell tower was open for tours as part of Birmingham’s Heritage Week. What a stroke of luck.
St Martin’s is unusual in that it has 16 bells whereas 12 is the norm in many churches. The first peal was heard in 1758. The musical interlude then continued for a remarkable 3 hours and 22 minutes. Rumour has it that the St Martin’s bells were later rang to drown out the well-known preacher John Wesley when he gave a sermon in the Bull Ring. How rude.
An impressive Royal noise. This tune lasted even longer than the first peal.
The mathematical complexity of bell music.
A bell ringing trophy won in 2011.
Stoney husband & wife?
Holy water in the knave.
John de Bermingham, a knight who fought in the war of France from 1373 until his death in 1393. His alabaster tomb is possibly early 15th century.
The chancel’s floor tiles are Mintons, a major ceramic company from Stoke which was established 1793 and kept going until the 1980s.
St Martin was the first saint not to be a martyr and more churches are dedicated to him than anyone else. He was born in Hungary and became a cavalry officer in the Roman army of Constantine. St Martin is famed for cutting his cloak in half with his sword and giving half of it to a freezing beggar. Later Christ appeared to him wearing the very same garment so Martin approached the local Bishop and requested baptism. He left the army, became a hermit for a while then went to the Balkans to preach where he was flogged for his trouble. He later established a monastery, cured lepers by kissing them and devised a novel method of exorcism which involved expelling demons by vomiting and defecation.