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St Germanus Parish Church, St Germans

The Church of St Germans is essentially within a village inextricably related to the Port Eliot estate (whose house is located next to the church), all situated close to the river and in a generously wooded landscape. The church was dedicated in 1261 by Bishop Bronscombe. There is nothing in Cornwall that compares to the Church of St Germanus, and it is one of the most interesting parish churches in Cornwall, both architecturally and historically. Unlike other churches in Cornwall, this church still retains a wealth of Norman features.

The substantial Norman building remains date from the late 12th century and may not have been completed until the early years of the 13th century as surviving pointed arches over the remains of the south arcade testify.

It is thought that St Germans takes its name from the Bishop of Auxerre (Bergundy, France) who lived there from 380 to 448.

The Norman building comprised the present west towers, a nave and a presumed choir and narrow aisles, the centre of the building lit by clerestory windows. A lady chapel was then added at the east end of the south aisle in the 14th century, and it is presumed that this south aisle was rebuilt much wider in the late 15th century, with porch being added at its west end circa 1500.  The nave/choir was reduced in length in the late16th century and the north aisle was removed in 1802, the north wall built to support the roof of the nave, and a short north transept was built to accommodate the Eliot family pew. The present plan therefore now comprises: A pair of west towers with the west end of the nave between, chancel, south aisle, chapel south of chancel, small north transept and north vestry, and west porch south of south tower.

The Norman west front is unique in Cornwall and contains the best survival of Norman masonry and features in the county. There were originally probably identical towers flanking a central gable ended nave but the towers have been rebuilt higher up or were not completed until later when fashions had changed.

The church is mostly built from local slate-stone. The buttresses of the west towers are constructed of ashlar and the south-west porch and the south wall of the south aisle are coursed dressed stone. The dressings are elvan from Tartan Down, Landrake and Beer stone from Devon. The roofs are dry-laid Delabole slate

Fittings include a late Norman or early 13th century font with square bowl and corner shafts that was re-assembled from discarded fragments by the Rev. J Furneaux in 1840 (information from Church Guide). In the south-west porch there is a 13th century stone coffin, in the south-east corner of the aisle a very rare oak misericord, and there is a painted panel with the Royal Arms on the west wall of the aisle.

The church also houses a very fine monument of 1772 to Edward Eliot by Rysbrack, which is arguably the finest 18th century monument in Cornwall.

Content generated during research for the paperback book 'Cornwall and the Cross: Christianity 500-1560' (ISBN 978-1-86077-468-3) for the England's Past for Everyone series