St Helier's Church, known as the Town Church, is one of the 12 parish churches of Jersey. Helier was a Belgian saint who lived as a hermit on an islet in St Aubin's Bay, about three quarters of a mile off the south coast of Jersey. In AD 555 he was killed by pirates, beheaded by their leader who feared his men would be converted by Helier's preaching. In consequence Helier soon came to be venerated by the Islanders, and eventually was adopted as the Patron Saint of both Jersey and its capital.

Land reclamation means that the church, which was once on the shoreline, is now some way inland. There are iron rings in the boundary wall, which some historians suggest were used to moor boats, but the tide would only have reached here on the highest of spring tides and it is much more likely that the rings were used to tie cattle brought to market in town. The original marketplace was about 60 metres away next to a large rock which was surrounded by the sea at high spring tides.

It is believed that a chapel was erected on the site of the present building very shortly after Helier's death, but the present church was begun in the 11th century. The earliest record is in a document regarding the payment of tithes signed by William the Conqueror, which is assumed to pre-date the Norman Conquest of 1066. All that is visible of the 11th century structure are the remains of window arches on either side of the choir. The building was reconsecrated in 1341 for unknown reasons.

The church building was extended to roughly its present size by the end of the 12th century, but most of that building is also lost. The sections of wall flanking the east window, part of a pier on the north east side of the crossing, the west face of the north door and the adjoining section to the west, and a small section of wall opposite are all that remain of the building period of roughly 1175 to 1200. The porch attached to the north door and the greater part of the nave and crossing were built in the second quarter of the 15th century.The date of the chancel is impossible to determine, since the original walls have been obliterated by the north chapel on the one side and the south chapel on the other. Most of the north transept dates to the second quarter of the 13th century. The present south transept, vestry, and the westwards extension to the nave are largely Victorian. A major renovation and re-ordering of the church began in 2007, and will take several years.

A chapel, La Chapelle de la Madeleine, existed in the north west corner of the churchyard until the Reformation. Formerly the Rectory and church offices were on the north side of the churchyard. These were replaced in 1969 by a new Church House building, a large concrete edifice incorporating offices, a church hall, kitchens and a choir vestry, together with a flat. The Rectory was moved to a large, purpose built Georgian house in the early 19th century.

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Founded: 11th century
Category: Religious sites in United Kingdom

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4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Alan Brown (2 years ago)
We were made so welcome, even taken to parish harvest lunch after morning service and delivered back to our hotel afterwards. Such a wonderful experience of Christian brotherhood.
paul t. (2 years ago)
Lovely place.will be great to find out who is the pianist. brilliant.
may haines (2 years ago)
Beautiful stained glass windows, and the church's gardens are planted with fruit and vegetables that the public are free to consume.
Phyllis Maloney (2 years ago)
The parish church is in central St.Helier and it is open throughout the day. It is a pleasant place to visit for tourists and those seeking a quiet place for reflection.
Stephen Doye (2 years ago)
The church is full of history and a sense of God's awesome presence. As we arrived a pianist started playing the most majestic pieces. There's a chapel devoted to St Helier who really was Jersey's main man as far as I'm concerned. He went there as a missionary and the first thing he did was to cure a cripple. He then defended the island at the cost of his life.
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Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.