Grade II - 15 Century
Treneglos forms part of the United Parish of Jacobstow with Warbstow and Treneglos, which itself is a member of the United Benefice centred on Week St Mary, in the Anglican Diocese of Truro and county of Cornwall, UK.
Treneglos is not the easiest of the churches to find - but it is worth the effort; the route to it passes through steadily climbing leafy lanes, in summer rich with a profusion of Cornish wild flowers which will sweep the passing car. Where today's church stands, with its fine beech trees, has clearly been a worship site since very ancient times - for the churchyard is circular, indicating its having been built upon a previously prehistoric sacred site.
A brief history of Treneglos Church:
The church is dedicated to St Gregory; St Gregory the Great was a Pope and a Doctor of the Church. At first he was a Praetor at Rome, a high ranking position in the Roman civil service. However, after his father’s death, he exchanged his toga for a monk’s habit, and being a wealthy man, he built six monasteries.
One day, he saw some Britons being auctioned as slaves, and this inspired him to make a mission to Britain, in order to convert it to Christianity. However, the people of Rome were extremely upset at the thought of his leaving Rome, and persuaded the Pope to forbid Gregory from departing.
Later the Pope died, and Gregory was made his successor. Gregory was unwilling to accept the Pontificacy, and fled from Rome to hide himself from public eye. He was a great scholar and patron of the arts. He founded a school for plainchant; Gregorian plainchant is still used in our churches today. His writings were embodied into the Canon law; he instituted the Canon (or Consecration) Prayer at the Mass, and the custom of reciting the Lord’s Prayer over the Host at the Canon – a custom continued even in the most recent forms of the Eucharist. He was a modest man, calling his writings “bran” in comparison to those of his disciple, St.Augustine.
When Gregory sent Augustine to Britain, to make the mission he himself was prevented from making, he gave Augustine free rein to use whatever form of service he thought best, and showed no sign of jealousy. St. Gregory died in 604, after a glorious Pontificacy of thirteen years.
The first recorded building was erected here in the 12th Century by Robert FitzWilliam, Lord of Downeckney (the present day Downinney) who gave it to Tywardreath Priory, in whose hands it remained until the Dissolution of the Monasteries, around 1536. Of the Norman building very little remains - most of what is seen today is 15th Century in origin, but almost totally rebuilt in 1858 by which time large parts of it became unsafe. The tower was rebuilt in 1871.
In the South porch, above the door is a fine Norman tympanum, that is the arch above the lintel, which shows two lions facing each other with the tree of life between them. Like that of its neighbours the old polyphant stone font is also Norman, whilst most of the remainder of the church’s interior, especially the windows, is typical fifteenth century Cornish and has altered little over the past six-hundred years.
The present building is almost entirely fifteenth-century, structurally. The dangerous tower was taken down and rebuilt in 1871/2, and there was the common Victorian “restoration” which fortunately failed in its bid to destroy the church’s character.
Except for the porch roof, all the woodwork is Victorian; especially out of place is the three-stage pulpit, incorporating the stairway to the now-vanished Rood Screen. The East window of the chancel is Victorian; it used to be surrounded by murals of angels, ordered from the catalogue but these have long-since been painted over. The Communion rails are difficult to date, probably pre-Victorian.
Points of interest include:
• the slate ledger-stone at the end of the North aisle, depicting a shrouded child in a coffin;
• the font, which is an interesting example of composition, the bowl being Norman, though the base and grotesque heads are later additions;
• the Norman tympanum depicting two beasts facing each other through the tree of life;
• the sympathetically rebuilt tower containing four especially sweet-toned bells (unfortunately incapable of being rung at present, owing to the fragile state of the hangings) with the initials of the churchwardens and vicar cast on the crowns: they are thus dated 1714;
• the aisle and nave windows which are four- and three-light standard Cornish perpendicular, with tracery.
A detailed guide to this and other churches in the area is available on site.