Feeling Saintly…

Ever since I first set foot in St Endellion Church, in the spring of 2014, this wonderful building has kept me wondering… Wondering about what, you may ask. Well, about the things of life, or more in particular, the things of living, and of creating. Over the last six or seven years I have seen and heard so many wonderful performers and speakers at St Endellion Church and, somehow, the simple and natural presence of that space, its exposed timber roof vault calmly resting on those ancient, sturdy granite pillars, makes me hear and see better. In books they sometimes talk about ‘thin’ places, where heaven and earth seem to almost meet, and where anyone with some spiritual awareness may feel a sense of sanctity. I certainly think this church in North Cornwall is one of those places, and I have practically always come away from concerts and events with new inspiration and new ideas, stirred awake by brilliant artists giving the best of their craft and expressions in a very special setting.

  • Lino print of St Endellion Church, the finished print

Of course, there is also the charming legend of St Endelienta, the patron saint for St Endellion. It’s one of those stories that neither tells too much nor too little, leaving space for your imagination. Endelienta’s story tells how the Saint lived a pastoral existence, with just a cow for company and milking. Alas, the poor creature moved onto the land of a neighbour, who killed it. In retaliation King Arthur, incidentally Endelienta’s godfather, killed the nasty neighbour. But the young girl didn’t want any killing done in her name and revived the man — Saintly stuff indeed, perhaps with a reference to how Christ stuck back the Roman ear that his disciple, my namesake Petrus, had taken off with one blow of his sword.

When Endelienta’s saintly life on earth was nearing completion, she asked to be buried in the place where two young steers would drag her corpse. This is where the church now stands.

Photo of Peter Ursem with his Victorian Hopkinson & Cope Albion printing press
Peter Ursem with his Victorian Hopkinson & Cope Albion printing press

How can one not be inspired by such legend or location? For a good number of years I worked as development manager for the cultural organisation who copied its name from the saint, Endelienta, and did wonderful work in bringing world class musicians, artists and writers to North Cornwall, to inspire through their artistic skills and passion. In the back of my mind I always carried a plan of creating lino prints relating to the Saint Endelienta legend, and finally, since I became a full-time artist and writer, I have made work of it. The print above is a lino print impression of the beautiful church, its foundations firmly on the ground but its whole being in harmony with the ever-changing skies. A typical Cornish tree was added to complete the composition.

Below are the images of my print of Saint Endelienta, made in seven separate colour blocks. My ambition was to visualise some key components of her story in a simple format, and recreate the luminous sensation one might get from looking at a stained-glass window. The image gallery below shows how the print was gradually built up, using a different lino block for each of these stages. The final stage adds the outlines in the design which pull the image together. Note that the only difference between stage 4 and the previous stage is the colour added to the hand on the cows back.

I have printed both these lino prints, the church and the saint, on my Victorian Hopkinson & Cope Albion Press from 1852 (a good workout!), in a limited edition.

Are you interested in making a purchase? Click here to be taken to the gallery shop, where you will find further detail about these artworks.