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Channel Islands The Parish Church of St Brelade and the Fisherman’s Chapel, Jersey


The Celtic Saint, Brelade, founded a small community on a rocky ledge overlooking a sheltered bay in the C5th and there has been a church on this site from at least 1000AD. When Jersey was divided up into parishes in the C12th, this became the Parish Church of St Brelade. The church has one of the few surviving Medieval chapels, the Fisherman’s chapel next to it.



St Brelade’s Church dates from the late C11th and has some of the earliest Norman work on the island. The chancel is the oldest part of the building. By the mid C12th most of the nave and saddleback tower had been built. Transepts and a north aisle were added during the C14th and the nave was extended.


The small round tourelle by the south porch, contains a spiral staircase that gave access to the top of the Rood Loft and also the tower.

The church originally had five bells but in 155, there was an Order of Council requiring the removal of all but one of the bells, which were then sold as scrap to provide money for the fortification of Elizabeth and Mont Orgueil Castles.

There was a major restoration in the late C19th when the crossing vault was in danger of collapse. Whitewashed plaster was stripped from the walls, exposing the underlying granite with pebbles from the beach. The floor was repaved with different colours of Jersey granite, meant to represent waves breaking on the shore. The rood screen, new choir stalls and pulpit were reinstalled.


Entry is through the west porch into the nave. Above are two of the original small Norman windows. The sockets for the cross bar to secure the church door against intruders can still be seen. By the door is a list of rectors from 1206.



The nave is long and narrow with few windows, making the church feel dark and intimate.


An arcade of squat round pillars separate it from the later north aisle .


The walls sweep upwards to form a vaulted roof. The carefully dressed stones of the crossing arch dating from the C19th restoration can just be seen in this photograph.


The stained glass in the nave is C19th.


The altar is still the original altar slab with five consecration crosses carved on it. set in the wall on the right is a rare example of a double piscina
The priest washed his hands in one basin. The other was used to rinse the communion vessels. The wooden chair to the left of the altar is used by the Bishop when he visits.


The east window is C19th and depicts the Last Supper.


The north aisle feels larger than the nave. The putlog holes supported the framework for the construction of the vaulted roof.


The font by the door was removed during the Reformation along with the stained glass windows. It was found on the hillside above the church, overgrown with gorse and bracken and returned to the church in 1840. The wooden top is modern.


At the end of the north aisle, separated by a stone arch, is the Chapel of the Holy Cross.



The wooden altar has a carved ivory figure of Christ Crucified, flanked by Mary and St John.


The memorials were moved from the nave and placed on the walls here.


The display case contains communion vessels.


The Church and Fisherman’s Chapel are open daily from 8.30-7.



1000+ Posts
The Fisherman’s Chapel

This is the small stone building set below the parish church and one of the few medieval chapels to survive in Jersey .

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The building dates from the C11-12th and is built on the site of the original church built by St Brelade in the C6th.

In the C14th it became the chantry chapel for a local family. The east wall was decorated with a painting of the Annunciation. A hundred years later, the chapel was taken over by another family. They refurbished the building by lowering the floor and enlarging the windows. They commissioned a new set of wall paintings that covered the earlier one.

During the Reformation most of the chantry chapels were destroyed. This survived as it became an armoury, housing the parish cannon. Later it became a store room and carpentry shop before a major restoration in the late C19th, when it became a meeting room. The painting on the east wall was exposed and partially repainted in 1918. The building was restored in the 197s and reconsecrated. It is used for a few services.

Named the Fisherman’s Chapel, Chapelle-dès-Pêcheurs, in the medieval period, it was thought to be associated with the Fishing Guilds. However there is no evidence of any fishing guilds at that time and it there is now a suggestion the name could be a corruption of the word ‘pécheurs’ meaning sinners.

Steps lead down into the building.


Inside it is a very simple building with just a pillar on the wall leading to an arch above which separates nave and chancel. The stone bench around the walls was used by the infirm or old.


What makes the building really special are the wall paintings. A coat of limewash was applied to the walls and the paintings outlined in black before being filled in with red, yellow, brown, black and white pigments. There were no blues or greens which is why Mary is shown in a red gown.

At the east end is the Annunciation with the Angel Gabriel, holding a scroll, greeting Mary. The smaller kneeling figures on either side are thought to be those of the donor’s family. Above, surrounded by clouds, the figure of God the Father can just be made out.


On the west wall is the Judgement.


Along the side walls are two tiers of paintings with scenes from the life of Christ. They start at the east end of the south wall on the top tier, finally finishing on the bottom tier at the west end. Many of the lower paintings have been lost and many others are incomplete.

On the south wall is the Annunciation, with the figure of Gabriel on the left. On the far right, Mary and Joseph are setting off the bethlehem to be taxed.


The next identifiable painting is the adoration of the Magi although little can be made out of the figures.


The sequence now moves to the top of the north wall at the west end, with Herod in a two coloured tunic, ordering the slaughter of the innocents after hearing of the birth of Christ.


The next recognisable scene is the entry into Jerusalem, at the top of the north wall at the east end.


The sequence continues on the lower tier of the north wall with the Crucifixion. Below the slaughter of the innocents is the flagellation before Christ has to carry the cross .



This chapel is a truly remarkable survival.

A gateway near the Fisherman’s Chapel was a perquage, or sanctuary gate. Criminals could claim sanctuary in the church and then escape through the gate and down steps to the beach and into a boat

The chapel is open open daily from 8.30-7.


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