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Cornwall's Maritime Churches

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Saint Senara’s Church today, 2019

Ross Allen talks about his first impressions of the church – exploring both inside and out – whilst taking time to ponder upon how the current appearance suggests an awareness of its maritime identity…

I visited Zennor Church on a sunny September afternoon, combining the visit with a walk along the coast path to make the most of the weather. Upon arriving in Zennor, it is clear that the Church is the heart of the village, situated next to the village pub: the Tinners Arms. When entering the churchyard, what struck me first was how expertly tidy and clean it is, no grass grows over gravestones as in some churchyards and nor is there any tired and rusty metalwork on the gates or fences. It became immediately obvious that the Church has a strong team of local custodians who maintain it in this orderly state.

A well kept church in the heart of Zennor, Ross Allen

The interior of the Church is equally well kept, the floor is neatly tiled, whilst a distinct combination of early and modern craftsmanship is a strong feature. The ceiling being crafted from lighter wood has a significantly more contemporary look than the worn pews. Furthermore, the stonework is made up of traditional Cornish granite which has been repointed, offering a more current finish.

The lighting inside the Church also provides it with a contemporary feel, with each beam in the ceiling being illuminated by an individual light. This gives the Church a positive atmosphere, in comparison to other Cornish churches I have visited which have been rather dark and damp.

Detail of the inside beams of Zennor’s church

Several elements of the Church allude to its maritime connections. Multiple prayer cushions are handcrafted along a maritime theme, featuring ships and fish amongst other designs.

A maritime themed cushion

The most prominent maritime feature of the Church is a pew which is engraved with a figure of a mermaid. It was inscribed there to warn people of the dangers of the mermaids, who were thought to lure men to their fate, according to the legend.

Detail of the mermaid carving

The Church has a very open approach towards visitors, who are permitted to explore the whole interior of the church except the altar. Information plaques are located in various areas for visitor’s benefit. This encourages visitors take an interest and learn more about different aspects of the Church. An ongoing project focuses on the restoration of the church bells, which seeks the support of the local community and visitors. To raise funds for this, the church has a large collection of items for sale such as information booklets, postcards and bookmarks.

St Senara’s Church stood out to me as very carefully maintained, both presently and throughout its history. The Church is a crucial aspect of the local community, within the porch there are two boards listing weekly events, activities and support which are available to the local parishioners. Overall, Zennor Church is a successful blend of original features which have been preserved through the aid of local custodians and the investment in modern wall and ceiling lighting, information boards and repointing work to the Cornish granite stonework.


Ross Allen, Researcher

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