Tuesday, November 4, 2008

St Neot and the Wandering Relics Bodmin Moor, Part I

Here you can see some pictures of this beautiful and unique Church. The space for the stoup still remains , where the Faithful crossed themselves with Holy Water, blessed at Easter with the Paschal Candle and would remind them of their own Baptism.
The lantern cross must have been beautiful and on the two faces St Neot and the what may be a Bishop, can be just about seen. The heavy granite building material of the Church can be seen here and the present Vicar has imaginatively had an beautifully engraved window put in the wall between the tower and nave, so that more light can come in and so that we can more easily see the beautiful stained glass, which has to be seen to be believed!

St Neots is on the main road between Bodmin and Liskeard.


On Monday, we travelled down to Bodmin Moor in bad weather and strong wind, although there were occasional bursts of sunshine. We travelled past interesting small houses, many with carved pumpkins in the front gardens and whether they were Jack o’er lanterns or only for display I did not know.

The road turned off afer Bodmin into the Moor and eventually we came to St Neot, which I was eager to see because of the stained glass window of Brychan Brycheiniog. I walked up to this church, which was amazing ly big and ornate and had three aisles and a North Side Chapel and South aisle chapel, which should have been the Lady Chapel, but had instead another altar there and with a reredos with an image of Jesus saving souls at the Revelation.
However,in front of this chapel was a small and exquisite wooden carving of the Virgin which I have posted above.

Inside the Church

The central chapel and south aisle of the church were the original building from 1425 when the Church seems to have been built into a manorial church, and an earlier date can be given for the tower. It seems this is another case of Norman reorganisation of the Saxon or old British Church which once stood here, The Normans would have probably rebuilt the church to be staffed by the Benedictines of the priory at Bodmin and the traditional place of accommodation would be in the upper storey of the porch (built 1425) although there was an incumbent priest from 1266. It seems that many religious brothers would spend a number of years out in the parish, returning to the monastery for periods. The local lord of the manor would often endow the church to show his wealth and assure his place in heaven. The best view of the Church is coming up the hill. There is a smallish car park and disabled access and the church well maintained and greatly loved.

The Lost Chapel

On the north side of the church the seventh arch at the east end is clearly older than the others and lower, and was probably the entrance to a chapel. A squint pierces the wall between the north aisle and the sanctuary . This was probably to allow the occupants of the Chapel to see what went on at the Mass in the Sanctuary.

Saint Gueryr (Aneitus)-the first Founder

However we should really start at the beginning. The original Old British founder of this Llan was Saint Gueryr.remember it would have been a mud and wattles church, and little remains today. It is Asser, the Welsh monk, who in his account of King Alfred the Great tells of the king visiting this shrine and adds that St Neot lies there too.

Neot was a holy and good man who dd the work of the Lord and his church. He was said to have stood upright , of small stature, up to his neck in water reciting all 150 psalms! He was said to have died in 877 approximately and his relics were put in the north wall of the chancel.

Neot’s name (Aneitus)

It has been suggested that the reference to Neot was added later, though it does not mean it was not a fact. There is some discussion about Neot. He was probably a Cornish style saint whose name may also have been found in nearby Menheniot-the Sanctuary of Neot, though the dedication here is to a Saint Lalluwy which name later became Ladislas
St Gueryr may have been an earlier saint altogether. It is ,however, not unusual for the Cornish and Welsh saints to have a Latin name as well, a Church name (eg Dyfrig being known as Dubricius) Latin was and is the language of the whole Church and so it is not unusual.

A relative of King Alfred of Wessex?

There is also a school of thought which makes Neot a relative of King Alfred and it was in a Life of this Neot that the story was told about Alfred burning the cakes! The dates would tie in with this most Christian of kings.

The relics of St Neot travel

He was said to have become a monk of Glastonbury Abbey, who, attached to Bodmin Priory, the local house, lived in what was a hermitage According to this account, some time after his death, the saint appeared to the guardian of the shrine, whom he bade carry his relics elsewhere ; eventually they came to rest in a monastery at what came to be St Neots, originally in Huntingdon near Cambridge.

Another account says the relics were stolen but
the removal of the bones of the saint, in whole, or in part from one place to another , sometimes for safety sometimes at a call to establish a new centre of devotion was a usual enough practice. Alfred had, in any case prayed at the Shrine of Saint Gueryr and was healed of a sickness.

Neot also seems to have been some petty king, who wanted a religious life and abdicated so that his brother was crowned . He became a monk at Glastonbury Abbey and saves a doe from a hunter.

The Legend of the 3 Fish

He then found three fish in a well and an angel tells him he may eat one every day , leave 2 and there will be three the next day. Neot orders a fish from his servant Barius who takes two fish from the well, boils one and fries the other . Barius brings the two fish to Neot, who sends him back to throw the two fish back down the well.

Cattle are replaced with stags

Cattle are stolen from Neot’s Community. After prayer stags take their place , then the Robbers return the stolen acattle .

Neot receives the Pope’s Blessing in Rome

Finally Neot receives the Pope’s blessing in Rome. Unusual to see His Holiness in 15th century stained glass in what is now an Anglican Church. Neot’s fest day is July 31st.
All the stories are placed in panels in an elaborate window inside the church. I was amazed when I saw the display of mediaeval glass. With scenes from the Bible and traditional local saints the stories are all told in magnificent colour.

St Neot’s Church Wonderful Stained Glass

The glass dates from the early sixteenth century. Father Robert Tubbe, Priest from 1508 to 1544, was possibly the man behind the present designs. These were restored by John Hedgeland in 1826-28. During this restoration Hedgeland changed parts of windows, and shifted them around, so that it is now impossible to know what they were originally like. The guide to the church tells us, that in twelve of the windows, half of the glass is original.

Pictures in glass of Biblical and British Saints

The Creation window is very fine. All the Saints-Andrew Patrick and many old British saints, including many to Our Blessed Lady, imploring her intercession are found in the church.

Part Two Tomorrow

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