The present church was dedicated in 1321. However, about a hundred years afterwards such extensive reconstruction was undertaken, including the aisles and the tower, that one wonders whether it should not be called a fifteenth century church. The present church succeeded a Norman church on the same site and before that there had been a Celtic establishment. The place was the "Ian" or monastery of St. Salwys, about whom nothing is known. He probably lived some time in the 9th century. (In the Domesday Survey the manor of Lansalhas is one of the 288 manors given to the EarI of Morteton.)
Although St. Salwys gave his name to the parish of Lansallos, the church is dedicated to St. Ildierna, about whom, again, nothing is known. We are not even sure whether the saint was a man or a woman. William ofWorcester, a chronicler who wrote an account of his peregrinations, says that when he was in Fowey in 1478 he heard that "Saint Hyldren, a bishop, lies in the parish of Lansalux, near the parish of Lanteglys; his feast is held on the first day of February, that is on the vigil of the Purification of the Blessed Mary.’ He believed that the body of the Bishop was buried before the High Altar. However, there are other and earlier documents which lead the authorities to conclude that the church was dedicated to St. Ildierna, a Virgin. When the church was restored, the choir was excavated to a depth of some feet but no remains of a bishop or of anyone else were discovered. There were found, however, some decaying pieces of the Rood Screen and also the mutilated stone effigies of a knight in mail armour and his lady which now lie near the main door. They were probably members of the Hywys family who were lords of the district in the 14th century. Their fortified manor was at Raphael on the site of which there is now an old farmhouse. Under the chancel was also found the slate coffin slab which we call the Elizabethan Lady and which is now fixed to the south wall. She is in farthingale, pointed stomacher and ruff. She was Margery Smith, buried here in 1577 and married first to Phillip Buttonhead and then to a gentleman of Tregunnick, near Seaton. Why the slate slab should have been buried is a mystery. The Reformation Settlement was concluded by 1577 so no question of sacrilege was involved.
To return for a moment to St. Salwys: there is a story of a mon k's ghost which walks down the church and across the churchyard. This is probably a folk memory which has survived nearly a thousand years and a change of language. There have been no monks in Lansallos since the Norman Conquest. You may be sure that Lansallos Church is not haunted. At whatever time one enters, there is always a feeling of peace and holiness.
The font comes from the earlier Norman Church. The marble pillars supporting it are Georgian, an anachronism, but rather a charming one in effect. Behind the font is the oldest monument in the church-half a Celtic font buried in a field at Highertown Farm. It may have been the original font that St. Salwys used over eleven hundred years ago.
The Bells of Lansallos are a very fine peal of eight put in by the Rev. N. Rivers-Tippett. then Rector of the parish, in 1937. Originally there were three medieval bells but they were broken up early in the nineteenth century by drunken villagers. For a hundred years Lansallos folk were summoned to church by the cracked bell that survived and which now stands near the door. The Gothic lettering-Sancta Margareta ora pro nobis-and the chevrons and trefoils, laver pots and a cross crosslet are very curious. Not far away from this bell can be found the five-holed stocks.
The benches were made between 1490 and 1520. The carvings on the ends are largely Renaissance scroll-work in a Gothic framework. Some are heraldic. One represents the Blessed Trinity:- a full face and two profiles, making the symbol peculiarly effective. One bench-end by the door shows a negroid face having its nose pecked off by a mythological bird. They all deserve inspection one by one, as even where the scroll-work appears conventional, extraordinary animal heads and bodies have been worked into the designs.
The church has no vestry. The west end of the north aisle, (or rather half-aisle), is used instead. At the entrance to this 'vestry" there are the first few of the bricked-up steps which led to the rood loft over the great screen which no longer exists. A slate oval memorial slab now covers the entrance to the loft. In Cornwall the rood screen generally extended the whole width of the church and not, as in England, across the entrance to the chancel alone.
The head of an ancient Celtic Cross which was dug up in a field can now be found in the churchyard. Towards the church gate, on the right hand side, there is an 18th century tombstone commemorating an unfortunate smuggler killed by a cannonball. He is either buried here or in Talland: his sorrowing relatives had an identical slate put up there.
It has had its vicissitudes in recent years. In 1923 the tower was struck by lightning; one of the dislodged pinnacles was later used as a base for the pulpit. The church was struck by shrapnel in the night of 11th June 1941 and the roof was pierced during a combat between British and German aeroplanes. Thank God. only slight damage resulted. The church was again preserved in July 1949 when the organ was destroyed by fire. In the summer of 1975 the church tower was again struck by lightning, disproving the old adage that it never strikes in the same place twice. This time the north-west pinnacle completely exploded and the electric switch panel was ripped off the wall. The bells were silent for a year until the tower was repaired. Each pinnacle is now fitted with a lightning conductor, used by the rooks for their balancing acts. During the hurricane of January 1990 the roof was badly damaged and the cross surmounting the gable-end of the south aisle and the cross over the porch were destroyed.