After the Full Circle workshop had ended and we had taken our leave from the rest of the party, Stuart, Larissa and I went to visit a local parish church, St Kentigern’s in Crossthwaite. I had wanted to visit the place for some time, mainly because of its dedication to a saint whose name had come up time and time again on our travels. Kentigern, also known as St Mungo, features in a good many stories, including some which link him with Lailoken, a figure said also to be known as Merlin.
When we arrived, though, the first thing to catch our eye was the cross pattée, a form used by the Templars, set into the gate. The next was the scaffolding and protective wrapping around the church… it looked as if we were doomed to disappointment and that would be a real shame, as not only did this church bear Kentigern’s name, it had been founded by the saint himself when, or so the story goes, he had been driven out of Scotland by a pagan prince in 553AD.
Settling in a small clearing, or ‘thwaite’, he had built the first church, probably a timber structure of which nothing now remains, but which means that there has been a church on this spot for almost fifteen hundred years.
Many more buildings have housed the church since that date. The first major replacement was initially built around 1180, in memory of her drowned son, by Alice de Romili, Lady of Allerdale. Much of the current building is medieval and a mere five hundred years old, though there are traces of the earlier Norman church still to be found, if you look beyond the Victorian restorations of our old friend, George Gilbert Scott.
Catching glimpses of intriguing carved heads as we walked up the path, it was impossible to see the nine consecration crosses that are supposedly preserved on the outer walls… and it seemed unlikely that the church would be open at all, given the extent of the works that were underway.
The sundial, dated 1602, told us that the short, winter afternoon was wearing on… and the rather curious clock on the tower confirmed that fact, though it was less easy to read than its predecessor. Installed just over a hundred years after the sundial, it has only the hour hand… no minute hand… and you have to wonder why.
At least the porch was open, allowing us to see some beautifully carved wooden panels within, with ‘arts and crafts’ scenes of birds and foliage alternating with Celtic interlacing.
There was also a frame holding the story of the founding of the church by St Kentigern, and honouring the old saints of the Celtic Church who had settled in the area and given their names to so many places. It would be a real shame if the ancient oak doors were found to be locked… but, it seemed we were in luck as they yielded to an eager hand…