In Launceston, Throwing Stones at Mary Magdalene

Living as I do in Mid Cornwall sometimes it can feel that I am a long way from anywhere in either direction.  If I take a trip ‘down west’ then I like to make a day of it and take a picnic and the same must be said for the other direction too.   There would be very little point in going ‘up the line’ to North Cornwall for just a couple of hours.

Yesterday however I did just that, I found myself with a couple of hours to kill in North Cornwall before an appointment across the border in Devon, so I took the opportunity to stop in the pretty town of Launceston.


Launceston,  I think, has a lot going for it. The pretty narrow streets, old gateway, a lovely market square and a wonderful Norman castle looking down on it all.

The church however is truly something special.  It was built between 1511 and 1524 and has hardly been altered since.  I think it is the prettiest in the county!  And I understand from the information booklet I purchased on my visit (I like a booklet and aim to get one from every church I go in!) that it was voted in the top 100 churches in the whole country!

As I wandered around listening to the almost deafening organ practice I have to say I fell in love all over again.  Magical.  But while I was taking another look at the outside something caught my eye.

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The exterior of the church is really wonderful, the detail and extravagance of the sculpted granite is truly fabulous.  There are plants and flowers, pomegranates, George and a scary looking dragon, saints, dogs and griffins.  So much detail.  But why was that reclining statue lying in a niche at the east end of the building littered with small stones?  I referred to my handy information booklet. . .


It tells me the statue is the Mary Magdalene after whom the church is named.  She is lounging on a cushioned bed, surrounded by choristers and minstrels, clearly Launceston quite liked this so called fallen lady.20160705_162129  But why then the stones?

I read on . . .

The tradition continues among children and some adults in Launceston, that if you throw a stone that lodges [on Mary Magdalene] you will shortly have new clothes given to you.

Well, that has to be worth a go! . . .  Luckily Mary’s face is very worn by time and weather so I can’t really see her expression.  I wonder what she thinks about having pebbles lobbed at her by a 38 year old woman?!  Sorry Mary!


For more stories of Cornish churches try: The Centre of Cornwall & a rather Mysterious Tail or for more interesting ladies try: Celia Fiennes: Through Cornwall, side-saddle! or Hannah Jory: Mother, Prostitute & Convict



5 thoughts on “In Launceston, Throwing Stones at Mary Magdalene

  1. cursedeblogger July 6, 2016 / 12:32 pm

    That first picture looked so much like Truro that I had to double take. Launceston is incredibly pretty though. Nice post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Toby the Cat July 6, 2016 / 9:23 pm

    I don’t think I have ever seen such elaborate decoration on the exterior of a church. Extraordinary.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. kidsandcompass July 11, 2016 / 10:46 pm

    We always used to visit Launceston for the otter park when I was younger. Looks like we were missing out on the town – I’ll make sure to visit it when I’m next down that way.

    Liked by 1 person

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