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St Germanus, St Germans, Cornwall

(50°23′46″N, 4°18′36″W)
St Germans
SX 359 577
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Cornwall
now Cornwall
medieval Exeter
now Truro
  • Richard Jewell

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The parish is still the largest in Cornwall and the glory of the village is its huge Norman church, set in a hollow with a superb Norman doorway as its west front. The church is dedicated to St Germanus. The large church consists of a nave flanked by large N and S aisles, a large chanceland an imposing W front with two towers.

The essentially late 12thc church is an example of Norman planning. Its W front is flanked by towers, both of which are Norman in the lower parts. One of the upper parts is early English whilst the other is Perpendicular. Some Norman work remains in the body of the church but, for the most part, it is Perpendicular or Decorated.

Inside, on the first floor level, the towers were connected by a gallery, as indicated by two remaining doors. The staircase of the S tower is the only Cornish staircase of Norman date. The clerestory windows with zigzag ornament were discovered in 1904.

The S aisle is a mixture of four styles: the Norman of the first bays, imitation-Norman of probably 1592, the Dec of the E end, and the early 15thc. Perp of the rest The rest of the interior is late medieval and 19thc.

The ground floors of the towers were open to nave and aisles by transitional pointed arches of simplest design: two steps with an inserted roll moulding (cf. Morwenstow).


In 926 the church at St Germans became the cathedral of Cornwall, and the seat of Bishop Conan. In 1050 the seat of the diocese was transferred to Exeter. In TRE and in 1086 the manor was held by the bishop of Exeter. Its value to lord in 1086 was £13.


Exterior Features



Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches



Wall passages/Gallery arcades





N. Pevsner, Buildings of England, Cornwall. Penguin Books 1951, 174-176.