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.
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 and 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.
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.
The poet Charles Causley actually recalls doing this with his friends as a young boy.
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 grown woman?! Sorry Mary!
Charles Causley – a life in poems
The Centre of Cornwall & a rather Mysterious Tail
Celia Fiennes: Through Cornwall, side-saddle!
6 thoughts on “In Launceston, Throwing Stones at Mary Magdalene”
That first picture looked so much like Truro that I had to double take. Launceston is incredibly pretty though. Nice post!
I don’t think I have ever seen such elaborate decoration on the exterior of a church. Extraordinary.
It is wonderful Toby 🙂
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.
Another great post. You’ve really captured the details of the church. Thank you.