Thursday, 6 February 2014

History of St Saviour’s Church by G.R. Balleine (Part 1)

Here is part one of the forgotten piece by  G.R. Balleine  on the history of the Church, transcribed below. Balleine had a wonderful grasp of how to make historical narrative interesting, and peppers his history with interesting anecdotes.
Unfortunately, the last time I went along on a Saturday, the Church was locked up, so I was not able to look around. If it is locked during the day, it is singular among Jersey's ancient Parish Churches, and that is a great shame.
History of St Saviour's Church by G.R. Balleine (Part 1)
Of all our Churches none made a queerer start than St. Saviour's. It began life as four babies, who have grown into one. It stands at a point where five fiefs meet. Whether these mediaeval fiefs preserve the boundaries of prehistoric tribes no one can say; but for some reason the present churchyard became the burial ground for the neighbourhood.
Here in early Christian times someone built a little thatched Chantry Chapel 30 feet long, in which Masses could be said for the souls of his family, and he dedicated it to St. Saviour; and, since in those days no altar could be consecrated unless it contained a relic, he apparently secured from some pilgrim to Palestine what purported to be one of the thorns from Our Lord's crown of thorns.
There was an immense trade in this particular relic in the early Middle Ages; and credulous pilgrims brought back innumerable thorns from Jerusalem. There are still, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, more than seven hundred of these revered in European churches today, even after the enormous destruction of relics at the time of Reformation. The tiny Chapel now became known as St. Sauveur de l'Epine, St. Saviour of the Thorn.
Five Separate Chapels
Then someone else built another tiny Chapel alongside of this one on the north and dedicated it to St. John. Later two more small Chapels were built, a little to the west of the first two, but with a gap between; the northern one was dedicated to St. Martin, and the southern one to the Virgin Mary. These four private Chapels were quite unconnected with one another. A fifth Chapel stood in the north-west corner of the churchyard, known as the Chapelle de l'Hote Dieu or de l'autel Dieu, the Chapel of the House of God or the Altar of God. It is not clear which was the original dedication.
The next stage came, when connecting walls were built between the Chapel of the Thorn and the Chapel of the Virgin, and they were thrown into one to form a parish Church. The walls were raised, and a stone roof substituted for the thatch. This must have been done before 1145, when a Papal Bull spoke of the Bishop of Coutances as being in possession of "the Church of St. Saviour in Jersey with its lands, tithes, and other properties".
In the thirteenth century this little Church was lengthened at both ends east and west. At this time the Parish Priest, who was known as the Vicar, not the Rector, was appointed by the Archdeacon of Val de Vire in Normandy.
In the fourteenth century the great central tower was added; and later the Chapels of St. John and St. Martin were thrown into the Church, and it became its present size.
Business-like Rector
We hear little of Church or parish till1461, when Jehan Hue was appointed "Rector and Cure, or rather Perpetual Vicar". He was a Jerseyman,who had been trained in the Diocesan Clergy School at Coutances, and had been ordained in the previous year in St. Lawrence Church by the Bishop of Porphyris. He was evidently a man of business-like habits; for in his first year he compiled a Register, which remains the most detailed picture we possess of Church life in the island before the Reformation. It gives full particulars of the Vicar's income, which fields paid tithe, and which paid two cabots of wheat, and lists of all benefactions left to the poor or the Church.
Five houses were responsible for providing wax for the'Church candles, eight for supplying corn to make the pain beni, eleven for supplying wine for the Mass. From another source we learn that one farm was bound to lay "two hundred reeds on Christmas Eve from the Presbytery to the Church for the Priest to walk on as he went to celebrate the Midnight Mass".
Hue gives the Rules of the Fraternities, which played in these days so prominent a part in the life of every parish. In St. Saviour's there were four, the Clerks of St. Saviour, the Clerks of St. Katherine, the Clerks of St. Nicholas' Feast in Winter, and those of his Feast in Summer. Every member absent from the Fraternity Mass was fined two pots of wine. Every sister had to provide a capon for the community supper.
Later Hue listed the benefactions made in his own day, Richard Le Viellard presented the Church with an image of St. Sebastian. Madame Phillipe De Cateret left two cabots of wheat. rente to maintain a candle before the Crucifix. The mother of Alinor Poingdestre left a cabot of rente for a candle before Our Lady for Pity.
By his will Hue left the Church a pair of black damask vestments and a silver chalice worth forty golden crowns. But his chief benefaction was the foundation of the St. Mannelier Grammar School. An effort was now being made to give the Chantry Priests something to do beside saying Masses for the dead. An Alms-house had been attached to the Chapel_ of the Hotel de Dieu. And a mile and a half from the Church stood another old Chapel dedicated to St. Magloire, the Breton Apostle of Sark, who was locally known as St. Mannelier. Beside this Hue built a School, and endowed it with a field, that he had inherited from his mother; and this remained for four hundred years the chief educational institution in the island.
An alcove in the south-west buttress reminds us of another devotion very popular at this time. It bears the initials of George Lempriere, who was Constable in 1464, and the cockleshell shows that he had gone on pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James of Campostella in Spain. Every year a ship sailed from Jersey crowded with pilgrims on their way to this sanctuary; and the Constable on his return evidently placed a statue of St. James in that niche.

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