The entrance to the restored Lych Gate at St. Martin’s, North Vancouver

St. Martin's lych gate has been moved and restored as an entryway to the North Vancouver parish's upper garden, a sacred space that includes a memorial garden.

The location is apt, for the lych (or lich) gate has its origin in the roofed, porch-like structures set up at the entrance to a churchyard cemetery back in 15th Century England.. The coffin (or just the corpse in a shroud) was sheltered inside the gate as priest and people gathered for the procession to the gravesite. "Lych gate" means "corpse way" in Anglo-Saxon. As a place to keep dry, lych gates became meeting places.

St. Martin's lych gate came to the parish in 1935 from St James, Vancouver, when St. James' current church was built at Gore and Cordova, without space for the gate. St. Martin's has maintained a link with St James ever since. The two parishes are in partnership with a Downtown East Side ministry. The gate is one of only three in the diocese; the others are at St. Francis-in-the-Wood, West Vancouver, and All Saint's, Ladner.

This year, St. Martin's moved the gate about six feet west to allow level access from the sidewalk, and repaired some of the gate's wood that had disintegrated. One of the more picturesque features of the North Vancouver parish, the gate will continue to be used as a backdrop for wedding photographs, and a place of shelter from the elements-for people, not corpses.
Workers lower roof of St. Martin's lych gate on to a restored base. (Jeremy Clark-King photos)