The Town Church is an Anglican church in Church Square, also known as the ‘Parish Church of St Peter Port’. It is considered the main island church, serving both the States of Deliberation and the Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey as well as the parishioners of Saint Peter Port.
There is evidence of a small rectangular church on this site in 1020. This was given to the Benedictine Abbey of Marmoutier by the Duke of Normandy. There may have been a building as early as the 8th century. In 1135 the church was described as standing next to a mill which was in the churchyard. By 1250 the current church building had replaced the earlier chapel, with two transepts that were used as chapels. The church was completed in its current form between 1466 and 1473, at which point the spire and the stair turret had been built.
When Henry VIII broke with Rome, control of the church moved from the Diocese of Coutances to Winchester, but there was a return to Catholicism with Mary I in 1553. Three years later three women, Guillemin Gilbert and Perotine Massey and their mother, Katherine Gawches, (the Guernsey Martyrs) were imprisoned at Castle Cornet for their Protestant beliefs, found guilty of heresy and held in the Town Church. They were burnt at the stake.
The change to Presbyterian rule in 1563 saw changes to church practices as well as the removal of frescos and ornamentation. 100 people on the island were burned at the stake, hanged, branded or flogged after being accused of witchcraft. Noisy behaviour inside or outside the church was punished with a spell in the stocks set up in Town Church Square.
The church has been Anglican since 1662 when the book of Common Prayer was translated into French on the orders of Charles II for use in the Channel Islands.
Services over the centuries were originally conducted in Latin, then in French, then in a mixture of French and English but from the last century, mainly in English. It is now a tradition to hold worship services in the Town Church at Easter and Christmas in both Latvian and English.
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