PUBLISHED: 16:41 14 June 2016 | UPDATED: 12:40 30 August 2017

The stewardship of one of Cornwall’s most significant religious buildings has been passed to an independent trust in a landmark move it is hoped will secure its future as a place of worship and bring the building back into play as a significant regional venue.

The arrangement is the first of its kind and it is hoped it could prove a model for other parishes in the diocese that are struggling to pay for the upkeep of large, frequently listed, churches.

A lease has been signed that hands over the responsibility for the running and upkeep of the church of St Germanus to the independent St Germans Priory Trust.

The building will be maintained as a place of worship. The building will remain consecrated and the parish will retain use of the building for a pre-arranged number of regular and additional services.

However, the trust is free to use the building in any number of other ways subject to Church legal permissions, and hopes it will become a focus for many community activities.

This is an innovative scheme for sharing a building and enabling the community to take responsibility for looking after the fabric of the church. The chancel technically remains the responsibility of the PCC and is not included in the lease.

Chairman of the St Germans Priory trust, Richard Laugharne, said: “Our vision is to return this important building and surrounding grounds into an effective community resource as well as retaining it as a place of worship.

“It will become a welcoming visitor attraction and educational centre. We hope to provide a unique learning environment for schools from right across the county, in this historic venue. The building can become a focus for historic and archeological research and present opportunities to learn about the origins of Christianity in Cornwall – in which this site has played a significant role.

“We also believe it could be the centre of exciting trails and projects for children, and a new tourist destination in Cornwall – especially for pilgrims.”

The trust has already raised £62,000 and repaired the roof, but will in future be looking to install flexible seating, install central heating and insulation, as well as toilets and a kitchen.

The church of St Germanus was built on the site of the original cathedral for Cornwall, before the area was absorbed into the Diocese of Exeter prior to the Normal Conquest. The Normans then built a priory on the site of the old cathedral, and the building has retained more original, Norman masonry in its iconic west front than any other Cornish church.

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