Parish History

Our Church

An explanation of what you see when you walk around our Church

If this is your first visit to our Church, you might like to use this guide to help to identify some of the features you see as you go around.

History of the Catholic Church in Truro

This is the second Catholic Church built in Truro. The first Church can be found on the other side of town in Chapel Hill. It became apparent in the 1960’s that the building was much too small to support the rapidly growing congregation, so a start was made on a new Church building, culminating in the opening of the present Church in 1973.

visit the churchThe Church has a joint dedication to Our Lady of the Portal & St. Piran. Our Lady of the Portal is an unusual dedication and reflects the discovery that in mediaeval times, there was a Guild of Our Lady of the Portal, with a special duty of maintaining a bridge over one of the rivers at the entrance of Truro. No one is sure where this bridge was, but the Church is thought to be built on land formerly owned by the Guild. St. Piran is one of the early Saints of Cornwall. He is reputed to have sailed here from Ireland as a missionary (on a millstone if you believe the legend) and he is the patron saint of tin miners

Features of the Church

There are three main buildings: The Church, the Church Hall, used for Parish meetings and social occasions, and the Priest’s house (the Presbytery). At the main entrance is the statue of St. Piran that formerly stood in the old Church. Although he was an abbot, it is likely that he would have been dressed as you see him in the statue.

Inside the Church

To the left as you enter the Church porch is the Lady Chapel. The iron gates are only opened on special feast days of Our Lady. Inside is an unusual 17th Century Basque statue of Mary suckling the baby Jesus.The chapel also has the first of five stained-glass windows made by Fr. Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey. Also in the chapel are two banners of the Catholic Women’s League made by Fr. Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey. The embroidered kneelers have been made by parishioners. Around the Church walls are 14 wall plaques - the Stations of the Cross - portraying our Lord’s life leading to His crucifixion. One of the prayers of the church consists of a procession from Station to Station saying prayers and meditating on our Lord’s passion - the events leading up to and including His death. As you proceed round the Church clockwise, you will see in the floor a slate slab bearing the
Latin inscription: Fons Mariae matris pastoris et agni - The well of Mary, mother of the Shepherd and Lamb. It covers a source of spring water discovered during the building of the Church.

After that is the statue of Our Lord known as the Sacred Heart. You will probably see some candles lit by visitors. Although we may not be there physically, the lit candle stands in our place, so feel free to light your own candle and say a quiet prayer for anyone or anything that is on your mind.

The Paintings

On either side of the altar are copies of two 14th century Russian Icons, painted by a former parishioner, Lars Prag. On the left is The Annunciation, portraying the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary to tell Her she has been chosen to be the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:28-31). The original by an unknown artist is in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. As with all icons, there is much symbolism, which we may find difficult to understand without study. Note the curious architecture of the buildings. On the right is the famous icon by Rublev. The subject is the story of Abraham receiving three heavenly visitors on the field of Mamre, as told in Genesis Ch. 18. The icon is known as the Old Testament Trinity, and is taken to be an image of the threefold nature of God as revealed in the New Testament.

The Altar and Tabernacle

The Altar is made of reconstituted stone from St. Austell. Behind the Altar is the tabernacle which houses the Body of Our Lord in the form of bread, which has been consecrated at a Eucharistic service. The lamp on the side, is a sign to those who enter the Church that our Lord is present. The door of the tabernacle bears the Greek word IX Y and an image of a fish. The initial letters stand for Jesus Christ Son of God Saviour, and the whole word means fish in Greek. A fish is one of the early Christian symbols for Christ found in early Christian tombs. Above the Altar hangs a crucifix, i.e. a cross bearing a figure of Christ. In this case it is not a suffering figure, but a living, resurrected Christ showing that He has overcome death on the Cross.

The Baptistry

On the right side of the Church is the area of the Baptistry, where children (and sometimes adults) are Baptized. The marble font comes from the original Church. There is a Book of Remembrance bearing the names of those past parishioners whom we think of in our prayers on their anniversaries. The statue of St. Dominic reminds us that there was a convent of Dominican monks in Truro before the Reformation, of which the only remains are the name St. Dominic Street and a well in St. George’s Road. Above the Baptistry hangs a tapestry by a former parishioner who did so much to support the Church in its early days and raise the money for its building - Margaret Pollard. The tapestry shows the Coronation of Our Lady, surrounded by a group of saints, known as the Fourteen Holy Helpers. The scene is copied from a shrine at Vierzehnheiligen in Bavaria, built in German High Baroque style.

The Holy Oils

An Oliarium or cupboard for the Holy Oils is in the Baptistry rear wall. This was made possible by a legacy from a former parishioner. The Holy Oils kept here are blessed and consecrated by Bishop Christopher at the Chrism Mass, held each year in the Cathedral on the Wednesday of Holy Week.

They comprise:

                    - The Oil of Catechumens – used to anoint during the period of the catechumenate and to anoint adults and infants immediately before they are baptised

                     - The Oil of the Sick – used to anoint those with serious illness

                    - The Oil of Chrism (aromatic oil) – used to anoint those being initiated into the Church at their baptism and confirmation, to anoint bishops and priests at their ordination, and in the dedication of a church or altar.

The use of these oils is one of the indications that all the liturgies in our church are carried out by virtue of the Bishop’s authority and in communion with him. The greater attention to the authenticity of the liturgical signs required by the Second Vatican Council means that oils are used more generously than was previously the case; consequently we now store the Holy Oils in greater quantities.


The Porch

You will see a modern wood carving of St. Anthony of Padua in his robes as a Franciscan monk together with a poem by Charles Causley, a famous Cornish poet.

Outside the Church

As you leave, notice the wooden crucifix on the side of the house overlooking the piazza, made to the design of Michael Finn, a distinguished local artist who lived at St. Just and made a number of these abstract design crucifixes.

Before you leave this webpage, you might like to say a prayer for our Parish:

Father, pour out Your Spirit upon your people of Truro,
and grant us a new vision of Your Glory,
a new experience of Your Power,
a new faithfulness to Your Word
And a new consecration to Your service;
That Your love may grow among us
And Your Kingdom come.

Our Lady of the Portal and St. Piran
Patrons of our Parish
Pray for us.