St Brelade's Church
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St Brelade's Church is one of the twelve ancient parish churches in the island of Jersey; it is sited on the west side of the island in the parish of St Brelade, in the southwest corner of St Brelade's Bay. It is unique in the Channel Islands in having one of the very few surviving medieval chapels, the Fisherman's Chapel, sited directly next to the main church building.
The church is dedicated to Saint Brelade. St Brelade was also known as St Branwalader, and has no connection with St Brendan.
The present church is mentioned in deeds of patronage. In AD 1035, Robert of Normandy confirmed the patronage of the church to the monastery of Montivilliers, which shows that the church was here before 1035. The Church was first built by Saint Branwalader. The chancel is the oldest part of the building. The original building extended some six feet into the nave. It was then only a small monastic chapel.
Early in the 12th century it became a parish church, so additions were made; and in the 14th–15th centuries, the roof was raised some two-and-a-half feet higher to a Gothic pitch. The roof of the Fishermen's Chapel was raised at the same time.
The church of the 12th century was cruciform in structure, consisting of a chancel, a nave (built in two periods) and two transepts—the latter forming the two arms. At a later date, perhaps a century later, the chancel aisle was built, and after that the nave aisle.
The tower is of later date than the chancel.
The font disappeared during the Reformation and was found on the slopes near the church, hidden in bracken and gorse, in 1840 and restored to the church. An ornate wooden cover for the font was provided in memory of H. G. Shepard, long-time churchwarden.
Above the font there was presumed to have existed, up to 1843, a smokers' gallery. However, this supposition, first mentioned by Tabb, has no documentary evidence.
A processional cross dating from the 13th century is to be seen in the Lady Chapel; this was found buried in the church.
Nearly all the stone used in the building of this church came from the beach; limpet shells can be noted on the stonework.
The carved text on the pulpit is a rendering of Proverbs 25:11: "Telles que sont les pommes d'or emaillées d'argent, telle est la parole dit comme il faut [A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in filigree work]."
Before the restoration of Balleine in the 1890s, the whole of the interior stone work was covered in plaster which was whitewashed; the plaster was removed to show the granite, and the whole re-pointed with cement. Balleine's restoration also saw Art Nouveau woodwork in the choir stalls and pulpit and modern paving in the chancel; it is made of five different types of Jersey granite and represents the waves breaking on the seashore.
The legend has the site of the church being placed in the centre of St Brelade's Bay and moved by night by fairy folk from their sacred site to where it now stands, until the workmen got the message and left it where it now stands.
Buried in the churchyard
- The Bailiwick of Jersey by G. R. Balleine
- Jersey Folklore by L'Amy
- Balleine's Biographical Dictionary of Jersey
- Balleine's History of Jersey
- The Cartulaire of Jersey
- St Brelade's Church: A Short Guide by the Reverend W. Tabb
- The Story of St Brelade's Church by the Reverend John A. Balleine
- The Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise
- Jersey Churches by Paul Harrison
- Channel Island Churches by McCormack
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