Building » St Martin – Our Lady of the Annunciation and the Martyrs of Japan

St Martin – Our Lady of the Annunciation and the Martyrs of Japan

Grande Route de St Martin, St Martin, Jersey, Channel Islands

The oldest surviving purpose-built Catholic church on the Island. Granite-built structure of 1863, in thirteenth century Gothic style, with a charming plaster vaulted interior. Contains French stained glass windows and a number of artefacts of interest.  

In 1847 Fr Hallum, a French priest from Bordeaux, came to the Island, and established a small school and chapel in the Grande Route de Faldouet. At that time there were about 350 French and 200 Irish in the area, working on the construction of St Catherine’s Harbour. Fr Hallam left the Island in 1855 and was replaced in the following year by Fr Guiramand, from Paris, who set about raising funds and finding a site for a new larger church and presbytery. The foundations of the new church were laid on 3 September 1862 and the completed building was opened and blessed by Bishop Grant of Southwark in February 1863.

The church is jointly dedicated to Our Lady of the Annunciation and the Martyrs of Japan. In 1597 Emperor Tagscomama had crucified three Jesuits and six Franciscans near Nagasaki. These included Paul Miki, a Japanese nobleman and convert. Altogether twenty six were put to death, including three altar boys. They were canonised in 1862, at the time of the building of the church.

In 1884 Bishop Vertue of Portsmouth entrusted the Mission to the French Oblate Fathers.

The congregation soon outgrew the church and in 1892 a gallery was built at the liturgical west end for the school children.

In 1919 the Diocese established this mission, and all the missions on the Island, as parishes.

The presbytery is a post-war replacement for that built in 1863.

The church is a modest-sized, two-cell structure in thirteenth century Gothic style. It consists of a single volume rectangular nave and chancel, with an attached sacristy to the east. The west, north and east walls are built of roughly-squared granite, the south wall rendered. Slate roofs, renewed with artificial slates on the sacristy.

The west elevation has a central pointed doorway with a quoined surround, panelled and grained doors. Above this, a triple lancet window, a clock and a gabled and rendered bellcote containing one bell. Stepped angle buttresses. Five bays to flank elevations, with simple lancet windows, the bays marked by stepped buttresses on the south side. The sacristy lower, with small windows (replaced in PVCu).

The interior of the church is a single volume of five bays. Roll moulded rib vaults springing from wall columns. White marble Gothic high altar incorporating statue of Our Lady and tabernacle; carved frontal incorporating OMI monogram. Forward altar supported on marble columns. Plain gallery at the west end, supported on cast iron columns.

Against the east wall are two inscribed quatrefoils, one in Latin recording the building and consecration of the church and the other in French, stating that an annual Mass will be said in perpetuity for those who contributed towards the building and ornamentation of the church.

Notable furnishings and contents include:

  • French stained glass, some depicting saints, others with foliage and geometrical decoration; maker not established.

  • Watercolour Stations of the Cross in wooden frames, given by the Empress Eugenie.

  • Gold monstrance, given by Napoleon III in 1863.

  • Large oil painting in Greek cross form, depicting St Paul Miki and the Japanese Martyrs, by Lyn Constable Maxwell, mounted on gallery front.

Burials in the old cemetery immediately to the east of the church include Fr Guiramand and Col Charles Edward Stuart (d.1880), said to be the great-grandson of the Young Pretender.

Heritage Details

Architect: Unknown

Original Date: 1862

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed