St Sanctain’s Church was built on the site of one of a C5th keeils overlooking the sea and the English coast. It is named after the Irish missionary St Sanctain who was a disciple of St Patrick. Over the years, the place name has been corrupted to Santon.
When the parishes were established in C12th, St Sanctain became the parish church, serving a disperse settlement. Today the church is still well away from Sancton and surrounded by farmland and a few farms.
The church was rebuilt between 1720-30 and again in 1774. It is a typical small Manx church with whitewashed walls.The rectangular building has small pyramids at the corners and a small bellcote at west end. There is a sundial on the south wall.
At the time of rebuilding it was dedicated to St Anne, as can be seen on the Benefactor’s Board at the back of the church. No-one knows the reason for this and it didn’t revert back to St Sanctain until 1891.
Music for the services was provided by minstrels in the gallery until an organ was installed in the late C19th.
The interior was restored in 1932 when the roof and pews were replaced. The vestry was added in 1951 by removing two pews by the staircase to the gallery. The east window depicting the Last Supper was given to church in 1952. The communion table was given in 1956.
The inside is equally as simple as the outside with whitewashed walls and a wooden beam roof. A few steps lead up to wooden altar with panelling beneath the east window, Above it is written “Glory to God in the highest”. On either side are banners for the Mothers’ Union and Santon Children’s Church.
The wooden pulpit is the original Georgian three decker pulpit which has been cut down.
Memorials on the walls include a splendid one for F B Clucas, a member of the Island Legislature and notable benefactor and for John Shimmin, the sexton, who died as a Prisoner of War in Burma.
The gallery across the back of church is reached by very rickety wooden steps and is virtually filled by the organ. Across the front is the Royal Coat of Arms of William IV, although there is a suggestion they could be earlier and the WR was added when he came to throne.
The vestry is beneath the gallery on one side. On the other side is a small welcoming area with the font, which contains the crosses.
Along with many other old churches, St Sanctain has the remains of three crosses found in the parish. There are two very simple cross slabs, one with a simple incised cross and another has a larger raised cross carved on it. There is the remains of part of a geometric carved cross head.
The fourth stone is of interest as it is possible Roman with an inscription declaring it to be the tomb of Avitus. If so it is the only Roman remains to have been found on the island. It was discovered when foundations for the new church were dug but nothing is known about its origins or history.
This is an attractive small church in a very isolated setting. It is not easy to find and is represented by a tiny cross on the Ordnance Survey map which is very easy to miss. It is a 20-30 minute walk from either the bus stop or railway station.
Coming by car, it is on a small unclassified road off the A25, the old Castletown Road. Coming from Port Soderick, the road crosses the steam railway line and it is the third turning on the left after a steep hill. The church is next to Sunshine Nursery. There is some parking by the church. The nearest post code is IM4 1EZ and the grid reference is SC 311712
If on the bus, get off at the stop for Santon Railway Station and walk down the road past station to the B26. Turn right and walk up the hill and take the first left for the church.
The church is open daily.