If you’re interested in exploring the deeper history of Padstow and the surrounding villages, our churches are an excellent place to begin. As well as being the perfect place to spend time in contemplation, they provide a window on the region’s medieval heritage and a link even further back in time to the sainted individuals who helped establish the Christian church in Cornwall.
St Petroc – Padstow
Within walking distance of Kilden Mor and Padstow harbour, St Petroc is a church rich in history and full of fascinating architectural details. The current building dates to Norman times, but there’s been a church here since AD 518, when the Welsh Prince Petroc and his followers founded a monastery here. Vikings destroyed Petroc’s original building in AD 981, and it’s been rebuilt several times since, with the current building constructed from Normandy stone in 1425. The interior still has an elegant medieval wagon roof and fifteenth century font with carvings of angels and apostles. Look out for the wineglass style pulpit, carved with Reynard the fox preaching to the geese!
St Petroc Minor – Little Petherick
Three miles outside Padstow is the second church dedicated to St Petroc. The exterior looks like many other English parish churches, but venture inside and you’ll discover what the architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner called ‘one of the architectural highlights of Cornwall’. The medieval building was restored in the early 20th century, at the end of the Gothic revival, which is reflected in the church’s extravagant altar, golden altarpiece and domineering rood screen. Be on the lookout for a comical statue of St Petroc himself.
Travel a few miles east of Little Petherick and you’ll find another Gothic revival church at St Issey. It’s packed with wonderful details including a chancel covered with Victorian stencil decorations. A rather drab stone reredos (altarpiece) is brightened up with surrounding red walls and a piscina (basin) surrounded by striking red and green tiles.
St Enodoc – Trebetherick
‘Blessed be St Enodoc,’ Sir John Betjeman wrote of the church that would become the great English poet’s final resting place. St Endoc can be found on the other side of the Camel Estuary, five minutes’ drive north from Rock. There’s no direct road to the church itself, so you’re best to park at Daymer Bay and navigate the footpaths between fairways of the golf course which have sprung up around this charming chapel.
St Saviour – Trevone
If you’re spending time on the beautiful beach at Trevone, it’s well worth visiting the church of St Saviour, just 300 yards from the sea. With its calming white walls this small, modern building is much lighter inside than many of the other local churches. The connection to the ocean is made through a dramatic, round stained-glass window depicting a boat at sea, entitled The Stilling of the Storm.
St Michael’s – Porthilly Cove
Just a short walk from the Ferry at Rock, St Michael’s occupies a unique position beside the estuary, with its own sea wall and steps down to the beach. Although the interior of the 12th century church is certainly calming, you might find yourself simply spending time sitting on the bench or grassy bank and meditating as you look out to sea.