After a few visits to the church last year and the door locked on each occasion, it was lovely to find it open yesterday. As with so many of the old churches on the Island, the church is beautiful, quiet and very welcoming…the parishioners even have a makeshift kitchen at the rear if you feel the need for some refreshment. Below is a transcript of text found inside the church.
“Kirk Santan is a vicarage in the patronage of the Crown; formerly of Rushen Abbey. Dedicated to a Celtic saint, Sanctain, the church is one of the 17 ancient parish churches of the Isle of Man. The parochial system in Man is supposed to have been established in the 12th century when the native Norse King, Olaf I, ruled the Island. He gave considerable grants of land to the Church. Christianity in the Isle of Man traditionally dates from 447 CE, and it is commonly thought that it arrived here from Ireland. Perhaps it is more probable that it was introduced somewhat later by monks of some other Celtic Church…maybe that of St Columba of Iona, or that of Wales. Wherever these missionaries came from each seems to have picked some suitable spot, usually near a well or spring of water. There he built a small ‘keeill’ or chapel, about 20 feet long and 12 feet wide. Close beside it he built the small cell in which he lived. In the keeill he said Mass and the daily offices; and he spent his days preaching to the families living around him. This present parish church has been built on the site of such an early keeill and there was another in the parish of Sulbrick and others elsewhere.
The church was rebuilt on the old plan in 1720 and again in 1774. The interior was restored in 1932 and there have been more recent alterations. The position of St Sanctain’s, standing with the parsonage house in the midst of fields, is typical of the old parish churches in the Island. There was no early tradition of village settlement here; the normal rural pattern (derived from both the Celtic and Norse practice) being that of isolated scattered farmsteads. The early parish churches – such as this – seem to have been erected on a principal keeill site towards the coastal end of their respective parishes. Thus those who lived in Santan Parish and worship here perpetuate a tradition of 16 centuries in its Celtic form, dating back to the 5th and 6th century CE.
Please join that ‘great cloud of witnesses’ in prayer, before you leave this sacred place.”
1971 ~ D.L.
Well worth a visit if you are in the area and there is ample parking opposite the church.
(photographs by Bernadette Weyde)