Friday, 7 July 2017

Beautiful Britain - Jersey - Part 3

My history for the next few weeks will come from “The Channel Islands” by Joseph E Morris, B.A., published by London, Adam and Charles Black, 1911. It is fascinating because, firstly, it is a guidebook from 1911, depicting a Jersey before the Great War erupted across Europe, and secondly because it is very much an outsider looking in, and making very personal observations mingled with the history.

Beautiful Britain - Jersey - Part 3

A Rocky Coast

Looking southward from Mont Orgueil at low tide it is possible to realize the extraordinary difficulties that attend the navigation of the Jersey seas.

The coast from this point to St. Aubin is flat, but as far as eye can see the surface of the water is a vast archipelago of broken rocks and reefs. Still farther out to sea is the hardly submerged plateau of the Minquiers, with here and there a point that just lifts above high water. There is a second stretch of low sandy coast on the west of the island, at St. Ouen's Bay, guarded in its turn by a second reef of rocks.

Nor do these exhaust the possibilities of coming to ruin on this iron coast. It is not without reason that the steam packets from England run in the daytime only in summer, when the long light evenings give every opportunity of picking their way through the narrow passages.

The fate of the Stella (on the afternoon of Maunday Thursday, 1899), somewhere in the neighbourhood of the terrible Casquets, is still too vivid in men's memories to need re-telling. The exact point of striking is unknown. The Stella settled down in the afternoon mist, and no man has ever traced her, or identified her grave in " the vast and wandering " main.

Most that is best in Jersey is identified with its coast, except, perhaps, for the archaeologist, who will want to push a little inland, to investigate the ancient churches of St. Mary, St.Lawrence, and St. Peter. Inland, too, is the Prince's Tower, built on the Hougue-Hambye in the eighteenth century. The mound is associated with a serpent legend, that perhaps has points of contact with the well-known stories of the Sockburn and Laidley worms.

An Unusual Font

The old chapel that adjoins it was remodelled by Richard Mabon, Dean of Jersey, in 1525. He had returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and constructed an imitation of the Holy Sepulchre, just as Opice Adornes, a hundred years earlier, had erected the Church of Jerusalem at Bruges.

Preserved in this now-deserted chapel is a font for the exact parallel of which we shall look in vain in England, though analogous cases occur in our country, and some precisely similar instances may be found in France.

Attached to the inside of the bowl is a smaller bowl, which was probably meant to catch the drippings of the consecrated water that ran off the baby's head. This is the ceremony demanded in terms by the Rituale Romanum, as cited in Mr. F. Bond's beautiful book on Fonts (p. 60) :

" Ne aqua ex infantis capite in fontein, sed vel in sacrarium baptisterii prope ipsum fontem exstructum defluat, aut in aliquo vase ad hunc usum parato recepta, in ipsius baptisterii vel in ecclesia sacrarium effundatur."

Modern Roman Catholic fonts are now often constructed in two separate partitions, and this is said to be the origin of the plural fonts baptismaux, of such constant occurrence in France.

Most of the interest of Jersey, however, except its fields of giant cabbage-stalks, and its green lanes of quaint little pollarded trees, will probably be found on the sea-coast, or near it. Let us, from Mont Orgueil, set our faces to the west, calling, on our way towards modern St. Helier, at the two ancient parish churches of Grouville and St. Clement's.

In Grouville churchyard are buried seven soldiers who fell in a skirmish with a detachment of the French who had been left behind by Rullecourt, when he landed on this spot and advanced on St. Helier on January 6, 1781.

Grouville church itself has little interest. Like other churches in the island, it is built of granite, and has windows with good Flamboyant tracery, except where this last has been cut away for the insertion of ugly 11 church-warden" sashes.

It possesses, however, in the south wall of the south chapel, a very curious feature, the object of which is obscure. This is a niche on the level of the floor, with a late segmental head, and with what seems a broken cavity in the lower part at the back. I do not know whether this was once used as an oven for baking the sacramental wafer, such as those that are sometimes thought to have been found in the Surrey churches of Limpsfield, Nutfield, and Dunsfold.

Trois Vifs " et " Trois Morts "

St. Clement's, a mile to the south, and lying off the direct road to St. Helier, should be visited for the sake of its ancient wall-paintings. One of these exhibits St. Michael ; another St. Margaret of Antioch, emerging from the body of the dragon, who had vainly tried to swallow her; and another St. Barbara of Heliopolis, standing near her tower.

Still more interesting are the scanty relics of the " Trois Vifs" and the "Trois Morts"-the legend of the three Kings, who, when hunting in the forest, were suddenly confronted by three open graves, or by three hideous skeletons.

The classical instance of this morality is in the Campo Santo at Pisa; and there is another fine example, in a kind of vestry, on the south side of the great abbey-church of St. Riquier, near Abbeville. It was altogether rather a favourite subject with medieval, religious artists, not less than twenty-three examples being recorded in England by Mr. Keyser, as well as one at Ste. Marie du Chastel, in Guernsey.

It must not be confounded with the parallel " Dance of Death," of which there are only five recorded instances, in addition to the one at old St. Paul's. There is still a grand example of this last on the back of the north choir stalls, in the strange old abbey- church of La Chaise Dieu, in Central France.

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