The nave and chancel
The nave is 60 feet in height and of eight arched bays with slender columns. Above there is a continuous clerestory of 17 windows on each side. There is no structural division between the nave and the chancel giving the church an open and airy feel. The chancel is delineated by the roof bosses.
Simon Jenkins writes in England’s Thousand Best Churches:
“Few who enter St Peter’s for the first time can stifle a gasp. The sense of space and light is overwhelming. To those who find Perpendicular bland or lacking in shadow or mystery, Norwich answers with a blaze of daylight, as if the sky itself had been invited to pray.”
The magnificent wooden roof is one of the chief glories of the church. It is a hammer-beam and arch-braced roof but the hammer-beams are concealed behind timber groining. There are angels on the end of each hammer-beam. The importance of the chancel is emphasised by a second, smaller row of angels and gilded suns-in-splendour ridge bosses. In 1962-64 the roof was raised on jacks and the walls, which had been forced outwards over the centuries by the great weight of the roof, were pulled back to save the church from collapse.
The great East Window contains the finest and most extensive collection of the work of the fifteenth-century school of Norwich glass-painters. Until 1648 many of the windows in the church would have been filled with similar stained glass depicting scenes from the bible. In that year rioting between the Puritans and the Royalists led to a gunpowder explosion in a house in Bethel Street leaving many dead and the windows of the church blown in.
Not until four year s later, in 1652, were the remains of the stained glass windows from around the church gathered together into the east window. Photographs of sequences of stained glass panels that were formerly located in various windows are displayed at the back of church according to the season so that visitors can appreciate the exquisite details.
The richness of the east end is continued below the window in the reredos, designed by J. P. Seddon in 1885 and gilded and coloured by Sir Ninian Comper in 1930. Comper also added the beardless figure of Christ in glory and the figures of the four saints who brought christianity to East Anglia.
Two medieval canon’s stalls, complete with misericords, are incorporated into the Victorian choir stalls and may have come from St Mary’s.