St Columb Major church

St Columb 01St Columba is situated in a large manicured space in the middle of the lively town of Columb Major. This was in contrast to many of the churches we have seen recently which have been buried in hay fields, their bluebells in full flower.

‘Large’ is the word that kept coming back to us as we walked around the church. It has been through several restorations and the result, coupled with the unfamiliar lack of granite in the arcading, makes it feel like St Anywhere’s rather than a real Cornish church. A previous incumbent did all he could to make the church ready to become Cornwall’s cathedral but it eventually lost out to Truro.

St Columb 04The dominating feature of the nave is the dark rood screen which is unexciting and locked. This makes it difficult to follow up the guide’s suggestion that one should admire the piscinae or memorials.

The chancel is predictably high church in style. So restrictive is the rood that a table has been prepared at the foot of the chancel steps where communion is presumably prepared. As at Crantock, we felt that there was a conscious effort to shut out the lay congregation: historically familiar but democratically undesirable in a county like Cornwall.

St Columb 05As at St Mawgan, over 30 C14 bench-ends bearing the symbols of the passion had been artfully re-used on modern pews. These were not up to either St Mawgan or Altarnun but were lively enough.

Outside we found the tower unfortunate. Unusually, there is an arch at its base thanks to some historic land ownership issues but it has also been rough cast ‘to protect it from the weather’: a move that even the church’s own guidebook seems to find regrettable.

There are delights, however: an unusual rectangular cross stands by the south porch and there are some wonderfully intricately carved slate tombstones. Around the ‘close’ – for that is what it felt like – are signs of some other historic houses which bear further study.

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A journey through the landscape and history of Cornwall