An Anglo-Catholic Shrine Church
**This introduction to St Petroc Minor is not yet finished**
How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven. Genesis 28:17
A Church is a place where the earth touches heaven. People gather here to celebrate the Mysteries of Jesus Christ, but even when they are gone the building seems to go on praying. The restorer of St Petroc Minor, Sir Ninian Comper said that the purpose of a Church is to bring you to your knees, to refresh your soul in a weary land. May your visit to this holy place bring you peace, refreshment and a glimpse of God’s love.
St Petroc and Pilgrimage
This Church was founded by St Petroc in the sixth century. Petroc was a Welsh Prince who for love of Christ renounced worldly glory and went to Ireland to study and live as a monk. John Betjeman calls him ‘the chief of all Cornish saints and a man of surpassing gentleness’. From Ireland he sailed to Padstow (St Petroc’s Stow) where he founded a monastery. After thirty years he went on pilgrimage to Rome and Jerusalem and then on to India.
Returning home to Padstow with his pet wolf, he desired a more solitary life and so set off to Little Petherick with twelve companions to live a strict life of prayer ‘in the wilderness, in hiding places in the rocks’. They built cells, a chapel and a mill and Petroc caused a spring to flow thus the place is called in Cornish Nanceventon (the valley of the spring). One day Petroc saved a stag from being killed by a local landowner called Constantine, whom he converted and sent to live a monastic life near Trevose Head where a ruined church and holy well still stand.
When Petroc knew he was dying he left Little Petherick for Padstow but died on the way at Treravel on the fourth of June. His relics were visited by many pilgrims at Padstow until Viking attacks caused them to be translated to Bodmin where the ivory casket containing them may still be seen in the parish Church. The tenth century Bodmin or Padstow Gospels, now in the British Library, record the freeing of many slaves at St Petroc’s altar.
St Petroc Minor Parish and Church
St Petroc Minor is a small parish on the western bank of a stream running into the Camel Estuary and in 1967 it was joined to the neighbouring parish of St Issey to the East. It is called ‘Minor’ to distinguish it from the larger St Petroc’s at Padstow and, as Petherick is a form of Petroc, it’s more usual name of Little Petherick has the same meaning as St Petroc Minor.
The parish Church is probably on the site of St Petroc’s chapel or cell, as is suggested by the fact that the north aisle of the church was originally built into the rock face. The present church was built in the fourteenth century but by the eighteenth century it was in a bad state. In 1741 the north aisle was rebuilt and in 1750 its wooden tower was replaced in stone, capped by four pinnacles taken from the ruined church of St Cadoc between Padstow and St Merryn.
A century later the church was again in a poor state and was rebuilt by the then rector, Sir Hugh Molesworth, and reopened on the sixth of October 1858. The north aisle was now separated from the rockface, extended one bay to the west and pillars from St Cadoc’s church were added at the east end. The St Cadoc pinnacles were replaced on the tower and an angel corbel from the ruined church of St Constantine built into its south side.
During the restoration it was discovered that the threshold stone of the main door was a twelfth or thirteenth century grave slab inscribed in Norman-French with the name of a priest, Roger Lempriere. He was probably a predecessor of the first named Rector, Roger of St Mabyn (1264). The stone was moved to a newly-built archway to the north of the sanctuary.
Anglo-Catholic Revival and Restoration