At the end of May, Rev Ken Boullier was invited to bless a rather large piece of granite. But this wasn’t just any piece of granite, this was 11 tonnes of Cornish granite that was about to be crafted and carved to become a three-and half-metre-high statue of St Piran.

Blessing the granite. Photo by Ben Perry

The statue, when completed later this year, will be whittled down to 5 tonnes and sailed in the La Nebuleuse across the seas to Brittany, in May 2018, where it will take its place as the 100th statue in the La Vallée des Saints to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

The project, called the Giant’s Crossing, celebrates and brings together Celtic connections, or as Stephane Rouget says, “The legend, the lands, the story, the stone and art.”

Stephane is the Breton half of the two sculptors creating the statue and David Paton, who is passionate about Cornish granite, is the other. David has spent a life-time researching, working with and advocating Cornish granite, also tutors stone sculpture at the Newlyn School of Art.

St Piran, as we all know, is the patron saint of Cornwall, who, legend has it, floated to our shores, after being banished from Ireland, with a millstone around his neck. The stone for the statue comes from Carsnew Quarry, Mabe, and is being sculpted at neighbouring Trenoweth Quarry, near to the river Fal. The millstone, it is hoped, will come from Ireland, making it as relevant to the myth as possible.

Splitting the granite: photos by Ben Perry

The project is poignant for many reasons. For churches across Cornwall it will be a physical representation of the St PIran Cross Awards. These are given to volunteers who have quietly worked away glorifying God by tending to their communities and churches, meeting needs both local and further afield in, for example, refugee camps or under-equipped schools.

For the sculptors, it’s a wonderful way to celebrate the strength and beauty of Cornish granite and the quality of granite in our local quarries. The whole process, from the legend to the artists, quarrying to sculpting, sailing to being installed in La Vallée des Saints, enriches the ancient Celtic connections between Cornwall and Brittany.

La Nebuleuse, photo by Revd KenBoullier

When completed, the St Piran statue will spend time in Cornwall before sailing next May in La Nebuleuse down the river to the open seas and across to France. It will be a departure reminiscent of the original St Piran’s arrival on our shores – except this time the millstone will be in the boat, rather than used as a boat. Even as it sails, it will evoke the essence of St Piran as Stephane and David have designed the sculpture so that, from whatever angle it is viewed, it will have the over-arching shape of a cross.

Carved on the base will be the words, Oh God, my boat is so small and the ocean so big. “The closer you get to him, “says Stephane, “the more it reveals itself, its story, its relevancy with today’s boat people, exiles, refugees.” Rather like the stories behind the St Piran Cross Awards.

You can follow their progress on Facebook, on The Giants’ Crossing page, where you will find dates of when you can go along and see it all for yourselves. The next open day, when it is hoped St Piran will be upright, is on Saturday, September 2nd. Follow the signs to Trenoweth Quarry in Mabe, park at the bottom then look out for the hand painted notices and boards – you won’t be disappointed.

Just follow the signs, there is treasure at the end. Photo by Ben Perry