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Roche Rock Chapel
south east of Roche, Cornwall
associated engineer
Not known
date  circa 1409
era  Medieval  |  category  Church/Synagogue  |  reference  SW990596
The two-room Roche Rock Chapel, which is dedicated to St Michael, was licensed for worship in 1409. It sits atop a granate tor, south east of the village of Roche, between St Austell and Bodmin in Cornwall, and has been in ruins for at least 250 years, though substantial structure remains.
Roche Rock Chapel, which is pronounced "Roach", consisted of two rooms, one on top of the other. The living rock on the site forms the north and west walls of the lower chamber. The rock is a type of granite called schorl, which contains tourmaline. The other walls were constructed in dressed granite blocks, probably quarried locally. Only the east wall and parts of the north and south walls remain. The east wall has two windows — a small one in the lower room and a large arched one in the upper. The doorway in the south wall of the lower room is also arched.
The building is approximately 9m long and 5m wide externally, with walls more than 500mm thick. The lower room was used as living quarters by the priest, said to be a hermit, who relied on penitents or family members to sustain him with gifts of food and drink. The upper chamber was used for worship. It is also possible that the chapel was used as a retreat by those who had contracted leprosy, keeping them isolated so that they would not infect others.
Access was originally gained via rock-cut steps but an iron ladder is now used, located near the entrance to the priest's cell. Worshippers would climb from there out onto the crag on the north side of the chapel and up to the top room — not a journey for the fainthearted!
The chapel ruin is open to the public and there is a public footpath to it from the main road.
Research: ECPK
"A L Rowse's Cornwall" by A.L. Rowse
George Weidenfeld & Nicolson Limited, London, 1988
"Cornwall Strange But True" by Joan Rendell
Sutton Publishing Limited, Stroud, 2007
"Cornwall's Archaeological Heritage" by Nicholas Johnson and Peter Rose
Cornwall Archaeological Unit, Twelveheads Press, Truro, 1990
"The Old Parish Churches of Cornwall" by Mike Salter
Folly Publications, Malvern, 1999

Roche Rock Chapel