Serving something of the function of modern wedding gazebos, porches were commonly added to Cornish churches, as elsewhere, from the early 15th century on. Medieval marriage was a secular affair with vows being said outside the church, followed by Catholic mass inside. Baptism began in the porch, as today, with three godparents or ‘gossips’, two the same sex as the baby. Churchings, when women were re-admitted to church services after giving birth, also began in the porch with a thorough holy water dowsing.
The porch at Landewednack is one of the finest of any in Cornwall with a holy water stoup and fine 15th century doorway with quatrefoils in the spandrels. This door was inserted into an earlier Norman south door destroying the tympanum (serpentine pillars and brick infill being 19th century additions). Four very expressive angel corbels support the stone ribs of the porch vault with large boss of a scroll-holding angel. It is possible that a corbel with two angels supporting a shield now on display in the north chapel may once have been sited here, too.
The oldest part of the church is the 12th century south wall with Romanesque door from when the church was just a chancel and nave. Transepts were added in the 13th or early 14th century to accommodate burials and additional altars and the font given by the rector Richard Bolham must date to 1404-15 when he served as priest here. The two-stage serpentine tower with slit window on its north side (to light the stair), and porch appears to be 15th century, while the north aisle with fluted capitals and tracery-less cusped windows looks early 16th century. Thomas Levelis, who was a landowner and tax-payer in 1522-4, paid for the east window glazing. The passage squint could well be the start of an aborted south aisle; a feature also found at Cury where money was left in a will of 1543 for that project. As processions round the church before Sunday mass were banned in 1548, neither south aisle was ever built. This left both Landewednack and Cury with the lop-sided plans so typical of Cornwall’s many unfinished churches.
Joanna Mattingly, 22 June 2017
Swallows in the porch (added 28/07/17) Photos by Simon – click to enlarge.