A rich mixture of history, artistry and creativity is offered this month for those who are interested in learning more about church’s architectural features or reading an historical fiction set in the War Between the States. Stephanie Bain, Oxford author of “The Girl I Left Behind,” centers her story on a 19-year-old female soldier in north Alabama. The year is 1862.
Anniston’s Church of St. Michael and All Angels, which newspapers have called “a Bible in Stone,” is open daily for guided tours by appointment as well as for self-guided tours.
Extensive efforts by John Ward Noble, the church’s benefactor, and the architect, William Halsey Wood, as well as the woodcarvers, stonemasons and local workers made St. Michael’s a glorious place of worship in every detail.
Noble was involved in every aspect of the building. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the church at 1000 West 18th St. welcomes thousands of visitors each year.
Certainly those of us who live here should be among those visitors.
The materials used in building came from local sources when possible. Sandstone from Rocky Hollow was brought to the site on a narrow gauge railroad built specifically for that purpose. Stonemasons shaped and fitted every stone, including the wall surrounding the church property.
White Carrara marble, quarried in Italy, was used for the 12-foot altar.
Stained glass windows, added after the church’s construction was finished, represent important events in Christ’s life.
The pipe organ served the church until the early 1950s. It has been rebuilt twice since then, with additions made in 1986. According to church records, the organ now, with nearly 3,000 pipes, is considered a first-class instrument.
While seeing all the artistry and history, it might be easy to neglect another treasure, the 17-piece lithograph series on the walls of Lagarde Hall (the parish hall). The collection was part of a larger series used in 19th-century England as a visual aid in schools. Kings, monks, martyrs, crusaders and saints in the prints present true stories. Also, they are a reminder of the Nobles’ heritage; the family came here from Cornwall, England.
The church was consecrated in 1890 by the Rt. Reverend Richard Hooker Wilmer, Bishop of Alabama. He and C.T. Quintard, Episcopal Bishop of Tennessee, came from a distance to attend the event. Travel in those days was longer and harder than today.
To schedule a tour of St. Michael’s, call the church office at 256-237-4011.
Patricia Corbin’s quilts on display
Elsewhere at St. Michael’s, English tile was imported for use on the floors in the main body of the sanctuary, the cloisters and entryways. Each Sunday, Patricia Corbin walked over these floors. While others admired these floor designs, she imagined them as the basis for beautiful quilts.
Corbin, the longtime director of choral activities at Jacksonville State University, passed away in May.
She had been quilting for several years, Corbin wrote concerning her three-part quilt series for St. Michael’s. “But I needed a special push to take on such an ambitious project. A big part of the reason I founded the Calhoun County Community Fiber Art Show was to make me complete the project,” she noted.
Complete the project she did, on Oct. 8, 2009. Her quilts represent the cloister floor outside the eastern door of the narthex and the cloister floor outside the chapel; the third quilt is a compilation of several sections of floors located outside the narthex and church office.
The cotton quilts, on display in Lagarde Hall, are tangible reminders of the admiration and devotion Corbin had for a place in which she spent so much time. Perhaps they form an anthem she wrote in praise for the church by working with her hands. In each quilt, she created a harmonious blend, just as she achieved in conducting concerts.
Oxford woman writes Civil War novel
Not all of the women in Marlbridge, Ala., were satisfied with knitting socks or sewing uniforms to help the Southern forces in the Civil War. Alexandra Corbin certainly wasn’t content with quiet duties like that. “The enemy is coming,” she declares to herself. “And what am I going to do about it?”
She cuts her hair, slips into a Rebel uniform and straps a gun to her hip. She rides Shadow, her horse, with confidence after much training from her brother, and attempts to be an excellent marksman. Now she’s ready for the invasion; but things don’t go as planned. And she doesn’t like to take orders.
Such is the heroine of “The Girl I Left Behind” by Oxford author Stephanie Bain, who describes the novel as an action romance. It is about women in war and, more specifically, the coming of age of a courageous young girl who has a love for her town. “It is also about individuals and smaller Civil War battles that had a place in this era,” Bain said.
Bain spoke most recently about her book to the Anniston Civitan Club. She also held a book signing at the Oxford Public Library in March. She has also appeared in Bridgeport, in Jackson County (20 miles from the fictional Marlbridge) and at the Oxford Book Club. A promotion at Fiddler’s Green Reenactment in Jacksonville was a highlight on May 6. Next on the schedule are engagements in Boaz and Scottsboro.
Bain earned a master’s degree in history from the University of Alabama, did graduate work in political science at JSU and earned a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va.
Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at email@example.com.