Tintagel, St Materiana

Grid ref SX049878
Church Hill, Tintagel, PL34 0DL

This photo of St. Materiana’s Church is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The church is dedicated to St. Materiana or Mertherian, who does not appear to be the same as St. Madryn.  She is recorded as Tintagel’s patroness by 1258 and is also the patron saint of Minster, where she was reputed to be buried.  Between c.1080 and 1200 Tintagel’s present church was built on an earlier burial ground used by Tintagel castle’s Dark Age occupants.  At first Tintagel church was  simply a chancel and nave with a tiny north-east chapel added soon after – the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.  There was also a Norman churchyard chapel or two (found in recent excavations).  Transepts were added to Tintagel church in the late 13th or early 14th century giving it a cruciform shape. The Earls of Cornwall held Tintagel Castle at this time.

The north and south doorways are both Norman as are the nave windows, other windows are Early English, Decorated or Perpendicular in style or Victorian replacements.  The hinges of the north door are reputedly original 12th century ironwork. The west window contains a brief history of Tintagel. The tower is at the west end and is variously dated to the 13th or 14th centuries or c.1400, but the belfry windows look 16th century.  Its screen from 2007 is in memory of churchwardens who have served the parish. The Font is Norman and has serpents carved into the corners.  Remains of an earlier Norman stone tub font that would have stood on the ground were found recycled in the foundations of the second-phase churchyard chapel.  Another Norman font bowl brought from St. Julitta’s chapel in the castle is in the north-east chapel with an early altar. There is a large 13th century memorial stone with a carved foliated cross and stone seats run round the south transept. There is also a three quarter length memorial brass of c.1430 to Johanna Kelly, the then vicar’s mother.

The Rood screen dates from the early 16th century but no evidence has been found that it was introduced in the 19th century.  It lacks its canopy and is darkly stained and shows the sturdy construction required to support the medieval organ loft, organist and crucifix or rood. There are 14th century canopied recesses in the chancel. The reredos is constructed of carved 15th century bench ends some of which certainly came from St Teath. The Bishop’s chair is reputedly late Tudor and the priest’s reading chairs Victorian constructed of medieval carved wood.  Look out for the Roman stone bearing the name of the emperor Licinius in the north transept and a life belt from the Italian barque “Iota” which was wrecked in Bossiney cove in 1893.

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