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28 October 2014

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You are in: Guernsey > Faith > St Saviour's Church

St Saviour's Church

St Saviour's Church.

St Saviour's Church

A brief history of the largest of the Guernsey Parish Churches.

St Saviour's was the fourth church to be built in Guernsey. It is also the largest of the country churches and stands at the top of a valley overlooking the reservoir.

It took five months to construct and was dedicated and consecrated on 30 May 1154. However, the first mention of St Saviour's Church is in a charter about 1030.

Part of this impressive Church was built in the 12th century but most of it dates to the 14th and 15th centuries.

St Saviour's Church

Inside St Saviour's Church.

Interesting facts

  • The middle section of the church is the oldest.
  • The West end of the church and the tower were built together and a great deal of the pillars and arches were all constructed in foreign brown stone.
  • The pointed arch roofs are of stone construction covered with slates and the side chapel, opening out from the Nave, is obviously a later addition.
  • Between 1295 and 1373 Guernsey was raided and invaded eight times by the King's enemies and the attack in 1295 was particularly destructive. "Women and girls were seized in the Sanctuary and ravished and more than 1,500 people were massacred. The churches were still in a state of dilapidation in 1304." (Brief History of St Saviour's Church by Freddie Priaulx, P.18).
  • On Sunday 30 January 1658, the tower was struck by lightning whilst the congregation were still inside. They were thrown to the ground and some were so badly shocked that they were unable to walk home.
  • In the 18th century the vestry was added and the church held the parish artillery.
  • The stone threshold at the inner door of the south porch is inscribed "DON DV S. N.L.M. 1755" - a gift from Mr Nicholas Le Messurier.
  • Oil lamps were installed in 1837, making it possible for Evensong to be held in the evenings all year round.

A myth?

The height and length of the church are exactly the same, but why?

"An old story tells of a dispute between the men engaged in building the tower. Some favoured a lofty one, others a short one. Tempers flared, and fighting was about to break out when the men suddenly became aware of a stranger standing in their midst.

The stranger told them not to quarrel over the height of the tower, but to build it as high as the church was long. The stranger then vanished. Accepting this a Divine command, the men built the tower to its present height." (Brief History of St Saviour's Church by Freddie Priaulx, P.10)

Menhir

The menhir at St Saviour's Church.

The Churchyard

A stone with two crosses cut into it (one on either side) serves as a gatepost at the north-east entrance. It is called a menhir - one of the standing stones that the pre-Christian inhabitants regarded as sacred.

There is also a stone bench which was used as a meeting place for the Lord of the manor, Fief Jean Gaillard.

The oldest gravestone is a short one, roughly made, of blue granite, near the south-west entrance. It is upside down and back to front and belongs to Nicholas Torode who died in 1602.

A blue-slate gravestone standing near the south-east boundary of the churchyard marks the burial place of 11 Irishwomen. They were passengers in the "Pitt" cutter wrecked off Perelle Bay in 1819.

Gravestone

The oldest gravestone at the church.

During the Occupation

The Germans used the tower as an Observation Post by constructing a chamber in the 35 metre high spire and cutting peep holes through the lead covering.

Russian and Polish slaves were also used to carve an extensive network of tunnels out of the granite rock. The tunnels were used as munitions stores as the Germans thought it was unlikely that the allies would bomb a Church.

The bells

On the largest of the three bells are the words:

"Je fus faite par Paul Bourdon A.D. 1680 aux frais de la Paroisse de Saint Sauveur de Guernsey et repondue par Viel Tetrel de Villedieu d'an de Grace 1856 aux frais de la dite paroisse...Sit Nomen Domini Benedictum".

Roughly translated to:

"I was made by Paul Bourdon A.D. 1680 at the expense of the Parish of St Saviour of Guernsey and was answered by Viel Tetrel de Villedieu of the year of Thanks 1856 to the expenses of the known parish... Sit Nomen Domini Benedictum".

Stained glass window

Stained glass window in the church.

On the smaller bells, the inscription is from the original cast in 1680 and says:

"IE FVS FAICTE L AN 1680 AVS FRAIS DE LA PAROISE DE ST. SAVVEVR DE GERNEZ."

Roughly translated to:

"I was made in the year 1680 at the expense of the Parish of St Saviour of Guernsey."

last updated: 02/05/2008 at 11:15
created: 19/05/2005

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