St Germoe Church, Germoe Village, TR20 9QX
Grid Reference: SW585294
Web Site Addresses:
www.achurchnearyou.com/church/2379/ administrated by Mrs Gwynneth Willett
www.westkerrierbenefice.org.uk/churches administrated by Mrs Kim Dooley
Germoe or Germoc was reputedly an Irish king, one of a band of missionaries, who landed with Breaca and her companions in the Hayle Estuary c.550 – 600 AD. Some escaped death at the hands of a local chieftain, Teudar, and made their way up the river Hayle almost to its source at Tregonning Hill. Breaca settled on the slopes of the hill whilst Germoe chose the valley where there was shelter and a spring.Thomas Tonkin noted a Cornish saying in the early 18th century which translates as ‘Germoca king, Breage a midwife’, but in reality Germoe was a chapel imbedded womb-like within Breage parish. An alternative and earlier tradition heard by William of Worcester when he visited Cornwall in 1478 was that the saint here was a bishop.
The Font: Germoe’s font bowl has three heads and is early Norman in date, with the earliest fabric being the Norman southern walls of the chancel and nave. Transepts were added in the 13th century with the small north transept being the stump of the original. The porch with carved stones relating to the tale of Reynard the fox may be late 14th century, the tower added in the 15th century with the north aisle built in the early 16th century. The beautiful north arcade is formed of six arches with four-centred arches supported on five moulded columns of Cornish standard Perpendicular design. Rather charming, and unusual, 18th-century wallboard texts, including ‘Remember the Poor’, adorn the whitewashed walls. The 1891-2 restoration, presumed to be by Edmund H. Sedding, is pretty but not very Cornish.
St Germoe’s Chair
This curious building in the north east corner of the churchyard may be intended to be the saint-king’s throne (a similar chair at St Mawes was associated with a ‘schoolmaster’ saint there). This has led to much speculation over the years including the following theory posed by Canon H R Coulthard in his 1913 ‘Story of an Ancient Parish: Breage and Germoe’:
“Germoe’s Chair has been the fruitful source of many curious speculations and ingenious theories as to its origin. Tradition says this was erected by a member of the de Pengersick family. There can be but little doubt, however, that its original use was in connection with the Palm Sunday celebrations of the mediæval Church. It seems to have been customary on Palm Sundays for some of the Clergy, bearing a cross which was covered or muffled at some point in the service, to issue from the Church, followed by a portion of the congregation in procession bearing palms or their substitutes in their hands. A booth was erected in the Churchyard: sometimes this was of stone and of a permanent character like Germoe’s Chair. Arrived at this erection the officiating Priest read the Gospel for the day; at this point another procession issued from the Church, headed by a Priest bearing the Host, and a number of children following a cross, decorated with wreaths of green leaves and singing “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” The two groups then mingled together, the muffled cross was removed, and a distribution of bread or alms was made from the booth or pavilion, or, as in the case of Germoe, from what is now called Germoe’s Chair. The united processions then, following the Priests, returned to the Church, where the service was continued to its close”
The Story of an Ancient Parish: Breage with Germoe, Canon H R Coulthard, 1913, printed by Camborne Printing and Stationery Company, pp 55,56 The source which he cites for this theory is ‘Walcott’s “Sacred Archaeology” pp 421. 423
Today it is used in connection with the Palm Sunday celebrations in the spirit of mediaeval processions.
St Germoe’s Well
This is positioned at the left hand side of the bridle road forty yards west of the bridge over the stream. In about 1905 the road was widened and all trace of the well was lost. However in June 1977 work was initiated by parishioners to restore the well to mark the Silver Jubilee of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. The well was completed in 1978 and is an approximate representation of the original well, and taps a vigorous spring believed to be the original source.
The Gable Cross: The gable cross above the outer gateway was symbolic of pre-Reformation time where it was suggestive of due preparation before entering a sacred building. The monkeys and the cross are found in close proximity
Tower: The tower at the west end of the Church is unbuttressed and built in three stages. The pinnacles are elaborate in design; each springs from an angel.