St Just in Roseland

St Just IR 45It is almost impossible to stop photographing St Just, a church to which Simon Jenkins gives a mere single star for its waterside setting. Indeed, it claims to be the ‘most photographed church in the country’ which sets one wondering where might beat it.

It stands at the foot of a steep hill, surrounded by lush semi-tropical vegetation and the gravestones of former parishioners, on the edge of a tidal pool. On a sunny day when the tide is high, there can be no more glorious sight.

St Just IR 23There are not many churches that are below you when you enter the churchyard as here at St Just, glimpsed through the trees. The way down is steep and peppered with plaques bearing encouraging phrases from the bible.

A slate in one of the lychgates reads:

Here rest the silent dead, and here too I,
When yonder dial shall strike the hour, must lie
Look round in orderly array,
See, where the buried Host, await the Judgement Day.
Stranger, in peace pursue thine onward road,
But ne’er forget thy last and long abode.

St Just IR 38Inside, the church is light and airy:  a single nave, south aisle and north transept (now filled with the organ). Like St Anthony in Roseland, this church was restored by the enthusiastic Rev C W Carlyon whose plaque adorns the north wall. His hand-carved benches are heavy but he clearly believed that skylights were necessary. He was also responsible for the elegant slate floor which helps to give the church its character.

The font is probably C15 but has an earlier one on the floor beside it. There is also an unusual double piscina.

St Just IR 25Hours could be spent reading the fine slate memorials in the churchyard, trying to find a space that has not yet been used or simply sitting and enjoying the view.

This is a place of peace but it was so nearly very, very different. Just over a hundred years ago, there were two proposals to develop a shipping terminal on the east bank of the Fal. Both of these envisaged a railway running right through the middle of St Just pool. One even had a large marshalling yard where the church now stands. Thankfully, neither went ahead.

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A journey through the landscape and history of Cornwall