Little Leighs - St John the Evangelist
The nave was built in the early 12th century, and the chancel was added or rebuilt in the 13th century. It was sensibly restored in 1895 by A Y Nutt, who rebuilt the east wall and the south porch and added the vestry. Inside the church there is a mid-14th century recess containing an older wooden life-sized effigy of a priest whose body lies in the tomb beneath. He wears vestments and his head is supported by two angels; he has a lion and a lamb at his feet. This is the only such effigy of a priest in the country. It was made of oak (not stone, so as to be movable to make a space for the Easter Sepulchre) and would have been brightly coloured originally. The Easter Sepulchre ceremony was abolished under the Reformation, and many of the sepulchures themselves were destroyed. But according to the Ecclesiological Society, the ceremony was broadly as follows. On Good Friday there would be the ceremony popularly known as 'creeping to the cross', when parishoners would make their way on their knees to a cross and kiss it. This might be a cross specially kept for the purpose, or the altar cross. Afterwards the priest and his assistants, bare-foot, would ceremonially wrap the crucifix in fine fabrics, and place this representation of the dead Christ in a 'sepulchre', together with a pyx containing the consecrated host (the wafer, which had been consecrated the previous day). The door or curtain of the sepulchre would then be shut. 'I am counted as one of them that go down into the pit' was the responsory. From Good Friday until Easter Sunday, the Easter Sepulchre had lights burning in front of it, and was watched over day and night, possibly by lay people as well as priests. All over England on Easter Sunday morning, before mass, before the ringing of bells, but with the church all lighted, the wafer in the Easter Sepulchre was taken out with great ceremony and placed on the altar, representing the Resurrection. The cross was then removed and there was a procession. Mass was celebrated. At a few places there seem to have been plays.