St Protus and St Hyacinth
Blisland, Cornwall, England, PL30 4JE OS: SX100731
“I know of no greater pleasure than church-crawling. It leads you to the remotest and quietest country……. Of all the country churches of the West that I have seen. I think that Blisland is the most beautiful.”
These words of Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman were broadcast on the Western Home Service of the BBC in 1948. When Betjeman visited the church of St Protus and St Hyacinth, the restoration reds, greens and golds in the magnificent rood screen would have been more vibrant than they are today after 100 years of use.
St Protus and St Hyacinth were two Roman saints; brothers who were martyred in the third century. This was the dedication at Blisland (and the only such dedication in England) by 1436. As Nicholas Orme suggests in his The Saints of Cornwall it ‘accords with the adoption of international saints for some other inland churches, like Warleggan and Withiel’. St Pratts, as the church is affectionately known, has its origins in the Norman period, with late medieval architectural additions. Because the tower is on the north side, one can still see the battened twelfth century west wall of the nave as well as a north door with tympanum. The late Victorian renovations were urgently needed including a large tie beam in the south aisle as the church was in danger of collapse. A young architect F C Eden was commissioned by the rector, the Rev’d Edward Vernon Collins, to come up with restorations and a new interior design which retained late medieval wagon roofs.
The church has many fine features; the reredos behind the main altar, the not particularly Cornish rood screen with the figures from Oberammegau above, the fifteenth century bell tower with its ring of six bells, the two fonts, one Norman and one fourteenth century, the James I coat of arms over the entrance, the fine Jacobean pulpit, the Norman doorway that now houses the statue of the Virgin and child, the Lady and Jesus chapels either side of the chancel and some wonderful stained glass. Betjeman commented on the “great west window letting light stream in” but perhaps his best words are – “That great church architect, Sir Ninian Comper, said a church should bring you to your knees when you enter it. Such a building is Blisland.”
In July 2017 the church played host to the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall with a short service – the first royal visit to the village.
Further information is on the village web site www.blisland.info and on the A Church near You web site.