Thursday, 18 April 2019

Four Churches Walk - Part Two (St Germans)

Just over half-a-mile north of the ruined church at Wiggenhall St Peter, stands a church that is more complete and a village with an even longer name - Wiggenhall St Germans.

St Germans has nothing to do with our Teutonic brethren but gets its name from St Germain, who was Bishop of Paris back in the Sixth Century AD, and to whom this church is dedicated. Perhaps this is a reminder that these villages, which today seem an isolated backwater, were once closely connected via trade to mainland Europe.

Although St Germans has many delightful features that crop up again and again as you investigate our wealth of ancient churches, it has one treasure that will stop anyone in their tracks as soon as they enter - row upon row of ornately carved pews.

Back in October we looked at the "Mythic Beasts And Angels" carved on the bench ends at the church in Swavesey, but these at Wiggenhall St Germans are on a different scale altogether. At Swavesey there were small carvings on each pew, whereas here the whole bench is decorated.

Some of the carvings are excellent Victorian reproductions, but many more date back to the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries.

The whole range of Medieval subject matter is here somewhere - saints, evangelists, the seven deadly sins, the seven sacraments as well as some rather quirky animals, though some of the sets are incomplete and some seem to be muddled up.

I don't know what those two are supposed to be but I think this is a hare....

I took dozens of photos and I may show you some more of them when I'm short of stuff to fill these pages. But lets have a look outside.

The south porch, which is the usual entrance to most churches, is a picturesque pile of time-worn red brick that wouldn't look at all out of place attached to the ruined church we saw back at Wiggenhall St Peter. And the south wall is also needing a bit of help from a couple of stout buttresses.

In the churchyard there are some splendidly lichenous old gravestones.

It's a lovely churchyard in a pretty but growing village. It was the birthplace of Ada Cambridge, and she was apparently the first  significant female Australian poet and novelist, though she's little appreciated in the land of her birth. Here's how she recalled the evenings of her Fenland childhood....

The western glories fade and pass. The twilight deepens more and more.
A thin mist, like a breath on glass, veils shining stream and distant shore;
And night is falling, still and cool, on each broad marsh and silent pool.

I've seen nights fall like that over this flat land...... But I can't linger any longer; I've still got a few more miles to traverse and two more churches to visit

Take care.


  1. Not sure about the butresses on the south walls they are small in comparrison to the ones supporting that tower on the west end. Beautiful church

  2. The pews are incredible in the artistry! Quite interesting and beautiful.

  3. I will never tire of these old churches, John. The work in them astounds me. We are all learning much about the architecture of the cathedrals these days too, with the fire at Notre Dame. Love those quirky carvings.

  4. This is such an incredible church. What amazing carvings.

    It would be hard to walk away from that church.

  5. Love all your old churches. "Splendidly lichenous" tombstones are such history.

  6. St Germans is a lovely church.. the carved pews are unbelievably fabulous, so much work, what a labour of love that was. Isn't it sometimes the way, talented artists, writers and poets aren't appreciated in their own country ✨

  7. A lovely post, John. The carved beasts and angels are wonderful finds. Happy weekend!

  8. Hi John - a glorious set of photos to let us know what St Germans holds ... incredible workmanship in the carvings ... absolutely fascinating. Great building too - and that lichen ... while Ada's poem reads just as the Fenland eases itself into night. Thanks for telling us about her. Cheers Hilary

  9. Such great artistry in the carvings, and a good hardy church worth saving. I love the gravestones, and hope there's another record as to whose is whose.

  10. What a beautiful church to explore. I love those carvings, and those "splendidly lichenous old gravestones."

  11. Wow, the woodcarving is exquisite!! A beautiful church all around.

  12. What a unique place! The talent it took for all these carvins just amazes me. I'm so glad you shared this quirky place!

  13. The church is a beautiful old girl from the outside, the benches are something else. I always wonder how long it took to do things like this. And how many people worked on them.

  14. Beautiful church and the woodcarvings are quite impressive.

  15. Love the last photo. The wood carvers must have been well employed in those ancient times. The carved pews are amazing.


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