The Church in Mullion (St Mellanus)
13th Century (with 15th Century Additions)
St. Mellanus or Melaine was born at Plaz in Brittany in ca. 450 AD.
He became a monk and was Abbot of his monastery at an early age. He was chosen Bishop of Rennes and was advisor to King Clovis. Our link may be through St. Michael’s Mount and a relic there. The figure of St. Mellanus was purchased by a previous vicar of Mullion from a place near Rennes Cathedral in France, which is dedicated to him.
Mullion is a prosperous, sophisticated village whose church amply reflects the love and care of the community over many generations. The Church building dominates the village, set as it is in the centre of a simple one way system.
Street parking is not easy
and visitors are advised to follow signs to the adjacent free car parks.
Mullion’s tower can be
seen for miles around; like many in the Meneage it is made of two types of stone
– granite, found everywhere, and the local serpentine: this gives it a
variegated effect. The tower was built in two stages, without buttresses and is very similar to the one at
Cury, another village close to Mullion. The west door has the same carved label
stops – one represents a mitred bishop.
Over the west window is a single piece of granite on which an unusual Crucifixion is carved, very reminiscent of the kind of work found on some early crosses.
The attractive south porch
(very similar to those in churches at Cury and Gunwalloe), and excellent roof carvings.
At the bottom of the main 13th Century south door is a so-called Dog Door; similar in purpose to the modern day ‘cat flap’.
Dog doors are
often found in churches
close to extensive pasturelands, especially in Wales. Their intention was to
allow sheep dogs attending service to pass freely in and out – presumably
their attention span was not as long as their masters! There is also a holy water
stoup to the right of the entrance door.
The moment the door is
opened to Mullion Church’s impressive interior, the sense of smell is
pleasantly alerted, as it smells of good polish, a mixture of beeswax and
linseed which was often used in Great houses, and speaks of years of attention
and affection lavished on good furniture; and the church in Mullion has plenty
The restored screen spans the church as a masterpiece of carving, giving an air of well preserved, carefully restored splendour.
Mullion church had an extensive, sympathetic restoration by F.C. Eden in the early 20th Century.
The roof is a fine example of the Cornish barrel type. The original timbers were supposed to have come from the Goonhilly Forest which in mediaeval times covered Goonhilly Downs. The whole roof was restored and rebuilt in 1987/88 faithfully copying the old patterns; there are no nails in the oak timbers, all are wood-pegged and the ceilings are made of lath with lime and horsehair plaster.
The octagonal font is
13th Century, three sides have very shallow carvings, and a fourth
with a serpentine motif.
The North door
(immediately opposite the south entrance) was
often called The Devil’s Door, because of the custom of opening it during
baptisms to allow any evil spirits from the newly baptised to escape. The studs in the door are
wooden, not iron. It is made
of oak and is thought to date from the 11th Century.
Above the door is the Royal Coat of Arms said to be given
by Charles II after he attended Divine service here.
screen is one of the glories of the church. The original was probably put
up in the 15th Century, but suffered during the Reformation and was
subsequently more or less destroyed. In 1925 complete restoration began by
Herbert Reed of Exeter.
The result is a tribute to 20th Century craftsmanship and skill, as the whole screen has been re-fashioned, complete with rood loft, parapet front and the Rood itself – the last section, was completed in 1961. Very little of the original work remains; however this can be best seen in a section below the transom across the chancel.
The other feature at Mullion church, which captures the imagination, are the bench ends. They are particularly fine, the wood allegedly coming from old Goonhilly forest. They show symbols of Christ’s passion, caricatures of clergy, initials, bacchanalian figures and even Jonah in the belly of the whale!
The figures in the Chancel
roof are supposed
to represent Saints: they were painted over at the time of the Commonwealth
(Reformation) to prevent them being destroyed by the zealous Puritans. One
vicar, Thomas Flavel, famous for his ghost laying was dispossessed at the time
of the Commonwealth (Reformation), but was subsequently restored in 1660.
the screen joins the South Aisle there is a fragment of an old mural, which
was discovered beneath the lime wash. It should be remembered that plain stone
churches or cleanly whitewashed ones, frequently used to be a riot of colours
with frescoes of saints and episodes from the life of Christ, which were used as
The Lectern has 2 panels of Elizabethan figures dating from ca. 1535.
The Coat of Arms over the South Door is from the Erissey family who used to live at Erissey Manor (now demolished).
The building has many stained glass windows, all of which add to the beauty and spendour of this remarkable church.
The church is open during the day in the summer months and at selected times during the winter.
Please come and visit, we are sure you will enjoy you're time here.
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