Thursday, April 8, 2010


Easter Monday this year was bitterly cold and windy and we made our way down to Polzeath hoping for some beautiful Spring weather to see the Church of St Enodoc,which was for hundreds of years after the Reformation buried in the sand dunes.This beautiful church has thank fully been restored to glory (though not completely-because sadly the rood screen has been roughly sawn down by Cromwell's minions)and , originally cruciform in shape there have been some interesting additions after it became an Anglican parish. In fact it is excellently cared for and kept and completely surrounded by a thick hedge , marking the deliniation of the ancient llan. Outside the cirrcular llan (or Lan in Cornish) boundary was the world and the earth. The inside of the lan, which would hold a church and living quarters for the clergy and their families was heaven, which would have been sanctified by forty days clearing, fasting and praying the office-the Celtic office being (I understand from references to the usages of St David of Wales)much longer than they are today. The families wwould work hard to keep the surroounding fishing and farming going to feed the llan. In Saxon times the little Lan would have been overrun and possibly the people would have fled to the coast and to Wales to seek refuge with the other 'Romanised Celts-' British people who had been thoroughly Romanised and Christianised.

St Gwethenoc or Brychan Brycheiniog's daughter

I have mentioned King Brychan Brycheiniog and his many daughters and granddaughters, sons and grandsons.Most of the female saints of Cornwall are of his family. Reputedly his family was one of the three holiest in Wales, with the Welsh genealogies claiming links with a branch of the family of Joseph of Arimathea (Ho Rama Thea)and many of the Welsh, Cornish annd Breton saints worked to proclaim the gospel of Christ and live out their vocations amongst the poorest people-going wherever they were led in their green and White martyrdoms. The Life of St Nectan gives the patron of this parish as St Eneda (Ceingair) mother of KENHEUDER who also apppears in the copy of St Nectan's Hagiography read by William of Worcester at St MICHAEL's MOUNT at Marazion. The one of Brychan's Children I have posted about before CYNYDR of Glasbury and Llangynydyr in Ancient Gwent.He was the son of Brychan's daughter CEINGAIR.However there is another contender for the land, and from a native Cornish saint, brother of St Wenwaloe of Wonnastow, which I wrote about earlier in Lent.

Saint Gwethenoc was known as an ABBOT and he and his brother were as I have written sons of Fracan and Gwen. They were Cornish, fled to Brittany, and then came under the tutelage of St Budoc (after whom Bude is named)Wethenoc is Gwethenoc in a later form and in Breton he has becomme Goueznou the welsh dd and Cornish 'th'becoming the z in Breton.Gwethenoc was also an ordained priest from the seminary at St Budoc's.

The life of the brothers is in a MS in the Paris National Library (MS Lat 5296 f 62)The life of Gwethenoc and another brother James is also spoken of in the Life of St Winwaloe which I have already posted on the Wonnastow post.St Winwaloe was born, however afterthe family had fled the Saxons to France. St Budoc was living the life of a hermit on the island of Brehat at the time, having also moved from Cornwall to Armorica (roughly Gaul or Brittany)who had a school there. It could be that given the Celtic hero saints travel, that they trained other missionaries who returned to Cornwall, perhaps after the Christianisation of England and the Saxons. There are miracles associated with Gwethenoc. Whist still student priests, their eyes alighted on a blind beggar abd they annointed his eyes with spittle,and made the sign of the cross over them and the legend says the beggar regained his sight. James encountered a leper who held out his hand for alms and James kissed the disseased palm in compassion. The brothers all went off to Landouart and founded a small Llan there and Gwethenoc was the director.

The Snake Bite

One day,when they were harvvesting a harmless grass snake bit one of the brothers in whose sheaf it lurked. He was in deadly alarm, not knowing it was not poisonous and thought it was miraculous he was none the worse for the bite!

Success of the Monastery

The monastery became crowded and so they retired for a ore quiet life, but it was Gwethenoc who left and care of the monasterary was left to James, St Winwaloe haveing perhaps lift on a mission back to South Wales. They established a monastery was known as St -Jacut-a-la Mer.Gwethenoc and James then ruled together as Abbots and became so famous that even whilst they were alive, sailors in danger implored their aid. When they did so, the heavenly twins seemed to appear in light upon the vessel on at the head and one at the stern and went about handling different parts of the ship 'quasi curiosi' and copnducted the vessel into port. St Jacut a la Mer is on a peninsula near Poubelay in Cotes du Nord.One night , they dreamt they saw St Patrick, who informed them,that in heaven, they would occupy thrones on a level with his own.So all three brothers St Gwethenoc , St James and St Winwaloe were very closely connected with the sea and shipping, which is why I tend to think that the church on the cliffs is more likely dedicated to or founded by them. In 1434,in Bishop Lacey's register, St Enodoc is called Capella Sti. Gwinedociand which is described as the Chapel of Guenedouci in an inventory of the goods of the chapel made in 1607-13.

Feast Day Confusion Bishop's official date July 13th in Catholic times.

william of Worcester gives the commemoration of St Wethenoc from the Bodmin Calendar on November 7th but we can't be certain it is the same saint, although it looks as if it may be. At St Enedoc the saint's feast day was held on July 24 but in 1434 Bishop Lacey officially named the day as July 13th.It was a church served by Bodmin Priory and also called 'Sanctus Wenodocus'. In Anglican times it havve become St Guenedowe. Other names also ensued 'Sinking Nedy' or' Sinkinny' as the church appeared to sink into the sand dunes.(sinkin in) Then it was called 'Edith Chap' in the 18th century and by 1720 @St Enedock'After 1836 and the renovcation it was given its current spelling. You have to walk to this church as there is no motor vehicle access. WQalkers from Rock follow the tenth fairway and from Trebetherick there is a footpath signposted, byt you have to park in the official car park.

The church is beautiful in good weather, with view of Dayer Bay and the inlet of Padstow on the other side.However on days of terrible weather it can be most unpleasant, as the guide book says it was on the day of St John Betjeman's funeral.

There used to be a collection of mediaeval stone bowls flanking the pather to the church door. These were stolen recently, rather sadly abd in commmon with churches throughout the country security measures have had to be taken to protect other important articles being stolen. As I walked over tho the church and it's boundary 'lan'hedge, I came to the porch and opn my right hand side was the headstone devoted to Sir John Betjeman.The former poet laureate spent many happy years at Trebetherick and his gravestone attracts many visitors to the church, where his mother is also buried. There is also a tablet on the south wall of the aisle dedicated to his father.

Inside the Porch

A very early Celtic style cross-with the cross shape across the 'Sun of Righteousness'.is to be found in the porch. It is of the 'wayside type' and ay have been on of may on route to the cchurch. In 1863 a restoration was carried out by the vicar Rev Hart Smith and completed in 1864. A contemporary wrote,k the sands had been blown higher than the eastern gables , the wet came in freely , the high pews were mouldy green and worm eaten and bats flew about!

Shape of the Church

Originally it was cruciform, but various different spaces had been built on. The Church would have once had a marvellous brightly coloured rood screet, which seems to have been sawn down either during Elizabeth's time or by the Cromwellians. The remains are quite beautiful, but the pictures of the saints have idsappeared. There is a Norman lancet window, a 13th century tower and stumpy broach spire. There is a 15th century arch and a south aisle. the three bay aisle is separated from the nave and chancel by a modern screen (in front of the organ) The rood screen has been repainted and regilded according to the orginal decoration.There is a bracket piscina of Norman origin. At Holy Mass, this was where the chalice and patten were washed after mass, their remains being washed directly into the earth. On the other side is an Aumbry where sacred vessels were kept.


We have no information about bells in Catholic times, but in 1607 there were two bells in the tower, inscribed 'Alfredus Rex',Later a small new bell from the wreck of the Immacolata of Borletta was installed in 18765. It had been wrecked off the Doom Bar.St John Betjeman called its sound a 'tinny tremor' in his powem 'Sunday Afternoon Service in St Enedoc, Cornwall'.

'Little Sunday'

St Enedoc's (Gwethenoc's) Feast on September the Ninth-(Nearest to the Feast of St Michael') In the 20th century early years it was known as 'Goosy Sunday' as Goose was traditionally eaten on the Feast of St Michael.The views around the church are amzing and many of the passed souls in the churchyard are mariners, sailers, fisherman and especially wrecked seamen. Which brings me to a most insteresting memorial in the Church, carved by renowned Sculptor Philip Chatfield.In the graveyard are reminders of the power of the sea and the dangers of the Doom Bar, the sandbank which straddles the mouth of the Estuary. The guidebook gives 'Sacred to the memory of Chris Bartlett,mariner of Brixham who was unfortunately drowned on the DUM BAR on 22nd of March 1824 aged 30 years., and a sad mmemmorial to one of the crew of the 'Peace and Plenty' of Lowestoft that foundered in 1900.

Philip Chatfield, Survivor of the Maria Asumpta which sank off the'Rumps'back in 1984.

I shall tell the story in more detail later on. Amongst the many sailors who perished off the Doom Bar, were three members of the crew of the Maria Asumpta. They are commemmorated in this magnificent relief inside St Enedoc's Church. Interviewing Philip Chatfield at Nicholaston House Hermitage last week, he told the full story of the wreck which I am planning to put into a podcast , however the people who died, the ship's cook,an 18 year old girl and a young crewhand are remembered here, where so many other drowned sailors lie and the picture tells the story of the brig.

St Gwethenoc and his brother James and St Winawaloe were all seamen and lived and died by the sea.So it is apt that these three are comemorated and remembered here in this beautiful church in the hope of Resurrection. I visited on Easter Monday. The smell of the lilies, tulips and daffodils was intoxicating and fresh in this beautiful building, final home to so many, including John Betjeman. who wrote:

O lichened slate in walls, they knew your worth
Who raised you up to make this House of God
What faith was his , that dim, that Cornish saint,
Small rushlight of the long-forgotten church
Who lived with God on this unfriendly shore,
Who know I-Ic made the Atlantic and the stones
And destined seamen here to end their livves.
Dashed on a rock, rolled over in surf,
And not one hair forgotten. Now they lie
In centuries of sand beside the church......

Afternoon Service at St Enedoc's Church,Cornwall_________________________