St Martin's Church, Gran Mere in front
Gran' Mere du Chimquiere at St Martin's
Is the statue of a woman who stands at the entrance to St Martin's Church yard a Pagan 'Earth Mother' figure, grand mother of Julius Caesar or something else entirely? We took a look at the legends that surround her.
Many legends and stories surround the Gran' Mere du Chimquiere or Grand Mother of the Cemetery at St Martin's church, but in the end no one really knows what she is or where she came from.
What is known is that she seems to be the twin of another statue that stands in the grounds of the Castel church and both were made in pre-Christian times, around 4000 years ago.
La Gran Mere du Chimquiere
It is also similar to two statues found in the south of Brittany and which is evidence of an ancient Atlantic culture maintaining sea links between Guernsey and mainland France.
The St Martin's Gran' Mere differs from the Castel one for two reasons, the first is that it has been re-carved and had the addition of a cape and either head dress or hair. This is thought to have happened around 2000 years ago, in Roman times, as the garments carved into her resemble clothing worn in the Roman era.
This is what led to her being dubbed, possibly satirically, Julius Caesar's Grand Mother.
The other difference is much later in origin as the stone was split in two along a natural fault in 19th century. It is said this happened at the order of an over zealous church warden who believed its pagan origin would detract from the message of the Church.
The statue was reassembled thereafter and is now held together by an iron spike but still has a noticeable crack along its middle.
In the 20th Century the resurgence in popular paganism has led to the theory that she represents some kind of 'Earth Mother' figure, particularly as it is known the carving comes from pre-Christian times. This also supports the theory that the site was of religious significance before the Christians arrived and the church was constructed.
Gran Mere's Castel counterpart.
Alternatively in the 18th and 19th Century she was thought to have a more sinister aspect.
There is also much debate as to whether this is the original location of the statue as various sources claim it has previously stood in other parts of the church yard, however, there is also an argument that it has been in its present location since at least the 13th Century.
In the end the Gran' Mere du Chimquiere remains as mysterious as ever and it is likely that her true meaning and origin are lost in the mists of pre-history.
Simon De La Rue spoke to local historian Darryl Ogier about the statue...
last updated: 25/06/2008 at 16:41
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