St Nonna’s Church
St Nonna’s Church
Altarnon Parish Church – the Church of St. Nonna – is known as ”the Cathedral of the moors.” St. Nonna was the mother of St. David and left her native Wales around the year 527. Nonna was one of many Celtic missionaries who passed through Cornwall on their way to Europe in the 6th and 7th centuries.
Of St. Nonna’s building nothing remains. The Normans built a church here in the early 12th century but the church as it now stands dates from the early 15th century. The mullions to the windows are original except those to the west windows which were renewed after lightning caused part of the tower to fall on the west wall in 1791. The timber for the church roofs comes, according to tradition, from the Trelawney family mansion which was dismantled in the 15th century.
As with so many things Cornish, there is something indefinably “different” about their churches. This was a land where the earth’s riches of copper, tin and china clay were hard-won; where the treacherous coastlines claimed the lives of seafarers by the thousand. Their churches were as rugged as the people, and Cornwall readily embraced the austerity of Wesleyan doctrine. This is a Celtic land, and the county retains an air of brooding mystery.
There is a wonderful “wholeness” and symmetry to Altarnun. It is more or less exactly as it was built. It has two aisles that are as long as the nave itself, divided by sweeping arcades. The impression is of one large room, very different from many other English gothic churches where the aisles have a feeling of “separation” from the nave, often emphasised by the addition of side chapels. The windows, amazingly, are of uniform design – even on the tower – having been left untouched since the church was built. They appear to be a kind of transitional design: a light Decorated tracery surmounting typically Perpenidular vertical mullions.
7 St. Nonna’s Close