St Patrick’s Church, Jurby

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August, 2018

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St Patrick’s Church is set on top of the hill above the sea with commanding views along the coast. It is surrounded by a large walled churchyard. The white tower is a prominent local landmark.

The area has been settled for 8000 years and there is an unexcavated Viking Burial mound in the churchyard. There was a tiny keeill here in the C8th. When the island was divided into parishes in the C12th a small church was built over the site of the keill. By the end of the C18th this was in very poor condition and unable to accommodate the population of the parish.

Work began on a new church in 1818 and stones of the old church were used in its foundations The church was eventually consecrated in 1829 when all the bills had been paid. The red sandstone font in the church porch is all that is left of the old church.

The population of Jurby declined during the C19th and many started to attend the Wesleyan chapel in Sandygate. By 1931, the population had fallen from over 1000 to just under 400. By 1937, the church was in bad condition. The roof had been condemned by the church surveyor and the tower was in danger of collapse.

With the threat of war, the Air Ministry chose Jurby as the location for an airfield and bomber training station, which opened in 1939. This brought jobs to the area. Many of the men who died while serving at Jurby Airfield are buried in the graveyard.

In 1939, the pre-reformation silver chalice was sold to the Manx Museum for £1000 and the money was used to pay for repairs to the church. The tower was lowered and porches added to the west and north walls.

In 2014, the church was threatened with closure. The Friends of Jurby Church were set up as a registered charity to repair and keep the church open. They serve teas during TT week and other special occasions. There is a monthly service and the church is used for exhibitions.

It is a large and attractive church and feels well loved inside. The huge windows flood the church with light. RAF standards hang from the walls.

A low arch leads into the small chancel. The east window with the Crucifixion, was blown out by an explosion during the War and was replaced by the Air Ministry. On the south wall of the chancel is a window of St Patrick baptising St Maughold.

Crosses found from the surrounding area are displayed in the north porch and there is quite a bit of information available about them. The oldest cross is a simple cross incised on a boulder found in a local keeill. The rest of the crosses are C10th and have a mix of Christian and Norse symbolism. The most impressive is Sigurd’s Cross, which was too large to photograph. The carving is now well worn but told the story of Sigurd who kills the dragon Fafnir in his search for the gold of Hreidmar. Regin, Sigurd’s companion wants him to die and advises Sigurd to roast and eat the dragon’s heart. When Sigurd tastes the dragon’s blood he can understand the language of he birds and animals and they warn him of Regin’s treachery.

Heimdall’s Cross originally stood 6’ tall but only the top part survives. This is the only cross at Jurby to have runes carved on it. One side has a cross. At the top of the other side is a man in a buttoned tunic holding an Alpine horn. This is Heimdall, Warder of the Gods, who lives at the foot of the rainbow leading from Earth to Asgard. He is in charge of the Gaillar Horn which is used to summon the gods to the last battle and the end of the world.

Only part of the shaft of Odin’s Cross survives, but this is the best preserved example of carving. It has been dated from 950-1000AD. Odin was Father of the God. The cross shaft is covered with interlaced designs. On one side of the shaft is a lovely carving of a boar, which was feasted on by the Norse gods and heros. Below is a stag which watches over Odin’s Hall. On the other side of the shaft is King Jormanreck who sacrificed his son to Odin, by hanging him

The church is open daily from 10-4. The nearest post code is IM7 3JP (which is Jurby Prison) and the grid reference is SC 350985. It is a lovely church and feels very different to other Manx churches and is well worth finding.

For more pictures of the “church”: and “crosses.”:


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