A brief history of this ancient parish church which stands on a hill.
Castel Church is situated on a site of pagan worship. It is also thought that a Viking fortified castle 'le Chateau du Grand Geffroy', built in the 11th Century by a piratical invader, once stood there.
Legend has it that the foundations of the church were originally laid in a field called Les Tuzés at Les Eturs, nearer the middle of the parish.
"This field, however, was a favourite resort for fairies, and the following morning the workmen found that all the stones and tools had been moved to the spot where the church now stands." (The Story of Ste. Marie du Castel by Nigel Jee, P.2)
This may however have just been an attempt to explain why the church is at the extreme edge of the parish.
The Statue Menhir.
The Statue Menhir
Outside the main door you will see the female Neolithic statue menhir, found under the chancel floor in 1878, when early Christians took over the pagan site.
She is six foot six inches long and two foot three inches wide at the shoulders and she appears to be wearing a crown, veil and a long necklace. "One breast has been mutilated and it seems likely that the figure was defaced and buried to prevent a continuing veneration of it." (The Story of Ste. Marie du Castel by Nigel Jee, P.16)
The necklace and breast are virtually identical to those of the mother-goddess figure which presides over the Bronze Age gallery-graves near Paris. There is also a similar female figure at St Martin's Church.
"The St Martin's figure has more detailed features, but historian Sir Thomas Kendrick considers that the Castel figure is an exceedingly noble work - better than the St Martin's and French examples in dignity and technical achievement." (The Story of Ste. Marie du Castel by Nigel Jee, P.16)
Flat stones at the foot of the statue are the Fief seat of the Cour du Fief du Lihou where the feudal court was held until the late 1800s.
The Sun and Moon Trough.
The Sun and Moon Trough
Probably carved in the 16th or 17th Century, the red granite trough can be found in the angle to the south of the porch.
Two faces have been carved which are supposed to represent the sun and the moon. The sun has a well-groomed moustache but the moon looks more like the face of the ghost.
In this period the church was extensively restored and re-pewed and two discoveries were made; the menhir (as mentioned above) and a furnace.
The furnace was found below the floor at the west end of the church, under the apex of the western arch between the two naves.
It was eight foot long, two foot three inches wide and three foot six inches deep, lying north and south and extending into the north nave.
"The part immediately under the arch was vaulted over with stones which had been subjected to great heat. It contained ashes, bones, nine skulls and some pieces of brass, perhaps bell-metal." (The Story of Ste. Marie du Castel by Nigel Jee, P.8)
The furnace may have been used for casting cannon balls or possibly for the bells.
With the restoration of 1879 the interior of the church took on more or less its appearance today.
The hole in the church floor.
When the church floor was lifted to enable repairs to be carried out, workmen called in Archaeological Officer Heather Sebire.
She identified it as a bell casting pit dating back to the 1680s when French bell founder Paul Bourdin visited a number of local churches.
A Fleur-de-lis which was his trade mark was found on pieces of the mould. In 1872, former bailiff Edgar McCullough excavated the west end of the church believing that it was a site of a Roman building, but narrowly missed discovering the bell pit.
In the north chancel look out for the 13th century frescos, a medieval stone credence and a hagioscope piercing one of the tower pillars.
Stained glass window.
In the south chancel you will find an ancient piscine, a blocked up priest's door and a 'hole in the wall', thought to be the remains of a cupboard where the altar vessels were stored.
"The East Window shows Our Lord as a boy of 12 at the time when Joseph and his mother found Him in the temple 'sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.'" (The Story of Ste. Marie du Castel by Nigel Jee, P.11)
It was given in memory of Dr William Mansell of Les Touillets, who died in 1869. The window over the west door of the nave, representing Faith, Hope and Charity, is in memory of Peter Thomas Mignot, Rector from 1902 to 1907.
The large font just inside the west door is in memory of Osmond Carey, the Rector who carried out the restoration of 1879. It was given by his wife in 1885.
The Church Plate
On the 3rd April 1913 two silver chalices (cups), a bason, salver and ewer (baptismal jug) were stolen from the church.
The two chalices of Elizabethan type and the salver, with the de Sausmarez arms dated 1735, were never recovered.
"The baptismal jug is a most beautiful piece of old silver 7 inches high, with a local maker's mark." (The Story of Ste. Marie du Castel by Nigel Jee, P.15) It was given by Elizabeth Le Messurier in 1729.
The stolen chalices were replaced in 1913 by a pair inlaid with stones, in memory of James P. Ozanne of Les Mourains.
The plate is kept in a safe which weighs five tons and said to have come from the vessel 'The Liverpool' which sank off Alderney in 1902.
last updated: 02/05/2008 at 11:33
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