Fishermen's Chapel

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The interior of the Fishermen's Chapel
The interior of the Fishermen's Chapel

The Fishermen's Chapel is a small chapel located beside St Brelade's Church in St Brelade's Bay, Jersey.

History

Only a few monastic chapels survived the destruction of over fifty others at the hands of the Reformers in the 16th century. This is one of the few remaining, along with some Manorial Chapels, and those at La Hougue Bie.

The name of the chapel was originally thought to be associated with fishing, but it is perhaps more likely that suggested that "pêcheurs" (fishermen) is a corruption of "pécheurs" sinners; this agrees with his archaeological investigations which show the chapel to have been a "chantry chapel", ie a chapel funded by a local family to say masses for the souls of the dead.

The walls of this ancient chapel are reputed to date from the middle of the 6th century but some authorities give a later date. Archaeological work by Warwick Rodwell places the date of the chapel well after the construction of the main Parish church. It has a more ancient appearance, but Rodwell suggests that a primitive wooden structure may have existed on this site as the first St Brelade's Church, to be replaced by the core of the present church in stone. The wooden structure was then rebuilt as a secondary focus of worship, and later taken over as a Chantry chapel.

The stone roof was raised in the 14th century. The monks of that period evidently found the roof too low and squat for wall paintings. These were discovered in 1918. After a severe storm, colour was revealed on the ceiling and a picture of the "Assumption of Mary" was seen, but in a damaged condition. Underneath the plaster another painting, "The Annunciation", of about 1310-1315 was found. Part of another picture of the Annunciation is to be seen on the south wall behind the arch. A short distance westwards is to be seen the Blessed Virgin's hand clasped on a book resting on a Lectern. Nearby is seen the head of one of the Magi, with the name "Melchior" above it, and close by another of the Wise Men bearing the inscription "les Mages". Between the Wise Men, the body and legs of a chain-mailed soldier is quite distinct. On the west wall the subject is the "Resurrection" and the "Last Judgement". Over the north door is a picture of Herodes; close by is another: "The Scourging of Christ". On the North ceiling over the door is a picture of our Lord "Riding upon an Ass"; close by is a picture of a Roman soldier. On the south ceiling in the little Chancel, portions of Adam and Eve and the children are to be seen.

The floor was restored to its Medieval level in the 1980s and the low aspect of the chapel which appears in early photographs is now gone, as the proper proportions can be seen.

Part of the wall paintings

Bibliography

  • The Fisherman's Chapel, J A Balleine
  • The Fisherman's Chapel: A short guide, Rev W Tabb
  • The Fisherman's Chapel, Warwick Rodwell
  • The Bailiwick of Jersey, G R Balleine
  • Balleine's History of Jersey
  • The Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise
  • Jersey Churches by Paul Harrison
  • Channel Island Churches, McCormack
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