As a young man arriving in England from Kenya I found the phenomenon of the English Church fascinating. These substantial ubiquitous buildings, with their towers and spires, are part of the landscape. There are excellent books and web sites on the subject, but their sheer number means that any one of these can only reveal a small part of their secrets. Some Churches are less than one Kilometre apart and many of these amazing buildings are centuries old and started their lives at a time when the majority of the population lived in what today we would call hovels. One can only marvel at the quality of the construction and their interior decorations, monuments and wall paintings. Evolving over time the buildings we see today are the result of skilled craftsmanship by different generations.
Although these buildings conform to a “pattern” with the Alter to the East and towers and spires usually to the West their diversity is amazing as they differ in size, shape and interior decoration.
The Churches of England are eclipsed by the magnificence of the Cathedrals, but are magnificent in their own right. This phenomena is of course not restricted to England as many countries have wonderful Mosques and Churches that are part of their landscape, but even if you only visited these buildings in England you could only see a small sample, and even this could result in travelling many miles. Many Churches are today locked, although the key is usually available after making some enquiries, which would add to the time required in making visits.
The myriad of books and web sites enable us to see inside these notable buildings, but the written word is open to individual interpretation and photographs provide but a tantalising glimpse of the detail and the relationship of the features. Different aspect are of interest to different people and the focus of the photographer may (will probably) differ from that of the viewer. With today’s technology perhaps the best way of making the interiors of these buildings available to all is to use HDS (High Definition Survey) scanners to model the buildings with 3D points to millimetre accuracy so they can be viewed with software such as Leica Geosystem’s TrueView. Such a project was carried out in Famagusta, Cypress, by Plowman Craven in 2008, for the Church of Saints Peter and Paul to enable structural engineering conservation work to be undertaken. This media enables viewers to enjoy many World Heritage sites through web sites such as that provided by the inventor of the HDS Scanner, Ben Kacyra, which can be seen at CyArk. This technology is however costly, but interactive 360° panoramic photography provides a cost effective alternative.
Interactive panoramas of Church interiors can be found of many individual web sites, and I am proud to display some here, but maybe there is an opportunity to collate this information to provide those interested in visiting the Churches of England, and Mosques and Churches elsewhere in the world, with a means to virtually visit and admire these remarkable structures.