SW7656 : St Piran's Oratory - Looking down into the interior
taken 3 months ago, near to Mount, Cornwall, England
Two ancient ruins and a stone cross are to be found on the dunes to the east of Penhale Sands. On looking at the map you would reasonably think that they were surrounded by sand whereas in fact they are in the midst of the dune system.
The older of the two ruins is a tiny church referred to as St Piran's Oratory. It dates from as early as the C6th or C7th and it is thought that the altar may have been constructed over the remains of St Piran himself as excavations in 1835 discovered a headless skeleton there. This little church was inundated by sand early in the last millennium and resulted in the construction of the nearby old parish church in the C12th. This later church was in turn similarly inundated and had been abandoned by the end of the C18th, being dismantled in c.1803.
The Oratory is protected by a staggeringly ugly concrete structure erected in 1910. This itself became covered in sand and was most recently revealed again in 2015. Every year, the oratory hosts hundreds of people dressed in white, gold and black who march upon it in celebration of St Piranís Day.
When the C12th church, known as St Piran's Old Church was dismantled most of its fabric was reused to build the present Church of St Piran in nearby Perranzabuloe, including the tower, windows, arches, arcade masonry and porch.
A few yards south of this ruined church stands a fine Celtic Cross, possibly the oldest in Cornwall. It is a granite monolith with a pierced wheel-head and is perhaps contemporary with the Oratory (C6th or 7th).
St Piran was a C5th Cornish abbot possibly of Irish origin. He is the patron saint of tin-miners, and is also generally regarded as the patron saint of Cornwall - his flag, a white cross on a black background being the flag of Cornwall. It is thought that he was executed by Tador or Theodoric, King of Cornwall in 480.
EH Listings - all Grade II:
Old Church: Link
Scheduled Ancient Monument Listings:
Oratory and early cemetery: Link
Church, Cross & surrounding enclosure: Link
- Grid Square
- SW7656, 41 images (more nearby 🔍)
- Rob Farrow (more nearby)
- Date Taken
- Wednesday, 30 August, 2023 (more nearby)
- Sunday, 17 September, 2023
- Subject Location
OSGB36: SW 7685 5639 [10m precision]
WGS84: 50:21.9001N 5:8.3444W
- Camera Location
- OSGB36: SW 7684 5639
- View Direction
- East-southeast (about 112 degrees)