History of St Petroc's
St Petroc’s Church is the largest and amongst the oldest parish churches in Cornwall. The present Church dates back to 1470, although earlier churches existed on the same site from 540AD when the Welsh missionary, St. Petroc, founded a settlement. The name Bodmin comes from ‘Bos-Menegh’ in Cornish meaning ‘abode of monks’. St. Petroc’s Church went on to play a central role in Bodmin’s history and development.
Just outside the west of the church is the well of St. Guron. It was he who first established a Christian cell here in 500AD. But it was in 530AD that St. Petroc came to take on the care of this burgeoning Christian community. He became the master builder of the Celtic Church in the West and in Brittany. A Welsh prince, trained in Ireland, he had landed at Trebetherick (Place of Petroc) opposite Padstow. He lived in that area for some years before coming to Bodmin. He created this ‘Abode of the monks’ as the religious centre of the West, founding the Priory and travelling to spread the faith. Many churches in the West are dedicated to him. He died in 564AD.
There were earlier churches on the current site. Part of the tower contains masonry of the Norman period. The present church was built in 1469 – 72. It is the largest parish church in Cornwall and is 151ft long and 65ft wide. Most of the masonry is the original 15th Century work; the pillars being typical ‘cornish perpendicular’ with small capitals.
It is one of the few churches of the period for which the building records survive almost complete. It was truly a town effort involving 40 local trade guilds. Most people gave according to their means in money, goods and labour. The total recorded cost was £196 7s 4d.The church furniture - pulpit, screens, seats, etc cost an additional £92 under a separate contract with Mathy More in 1491. The timber was bought in Wales to be shipped to Wadebridge. Some of this original woodwork is incorporated in the present screens and priests’ seats.
Most of the original roof was destroyed in 1699 when the spire (150ft high) was struck by lightning, but a few beams remain in position in the Lady Chapel. The building was partially restored in the early 19th century when the west wall was rebuilt and a further restoration took placed in about 1860.
There is a particularly impressive Norman font that has been placed and highlighted prominently at the entrance to the nave. Many other memorials and features adorn the church interior, making St. Petroc’s Church a spiritual and historic gem for Cornwall.