The history of one of Suffolk’s oldest parishes got a shot in the arm this month as St. Mary’s Church in Lakenheath village received a 32,000-pound grant to preserve 13th-century wall paintings.

The grant, from the Heritage Lottery Fund, will allow the church to preserve depictions of the life of Jesus Christ and St. Edmund, among other works, according to the Rev. Robert Leach, the church’s priest.

St. Mary’s history dates to a time when much of the area was under water, he said.

“You could sail a boat right up to Lakenheath,” Leach said.

Restoration work will involve protecting the paint and plasterwork for future generations, he said.

The medieval paintings were whitewashed over in the 1540s and rediscovered during a restoration in 1864, Leach said.

“For some reason they uncovered these paintings,” he said. “Once they found a little bit, they continued uncovering.”

There are actually several layers of paintings on the church walls, he said, and part of the grant money will go toward educating visitors about this holy heritage.

The six-month restoration project will also help residents reconnect with this part of the village’s past, project leader Matthew Champion told the British Broadcasting Corp.

“These fantastic images were originally paid for and created by the local community,” he told the BBC. “This project aims to bring local people back to their church to rediscover their own parish.”

Leach said the church is open on weekends for Mass, and that visitors who want to see the paintings at other times can get the church key from a news agent next door.

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