The Merle Chapel
Known formerly as the Chapel of St Congar, this was until 1952 a private chapel attached to the manor of Iwood in the ownership of the Norman and the Richardson families. It was restored in 1880 by Ann de Merle of a Huguenot branch of the Norman family, which explains the choice of four French saints for the East window.
Ann Merle who is buried here, died in 1894 – her grave inscription reads: “Formerly Norman: Widow of William Henry de Merle, DL of Weston super Mare. Only child of Henry and Ann Norman of Portbury”
Below two Biblical scenes in the east window, the sower and the faithful servant, are depicted St Louis, a thirteenth century King of France; St Denis, Patron Saint of France who as the glass illustrates was beheaded by the Roman Governor of Paris in 275; St Remigius, sixth century ‘Apostle of the Franks’ and St Vincent of Lerins, fifth century monk.
The South window of the Chapel depicts the Transfiguration of Jesus with Moses (left) and Elijah while Peter, James and John sleep.
It commemorates the restoration of the Chapel and has the inscription “In memory of W H Merle of this county, descended from an old Norman family who gave him home and country for conscience sake. This chapel was restored by his widow Ann of Merle in AD 1880.”
There are painted ‘suns’ on the ceiling, and the coloured corbels depicting heads of medieval women.
The Communion Rail and kneeler were added as part of a general restoration of the Chapel in 1982. The latter incorporates designs from the Mary Merle memorial tablet on the East wall. These signify the phases of life: birth (chrysalis); youth (snowdrop); marriage (orange blossom); death (broken poppy) and resurrection (butterfly). The kneeler design includes the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (Alpha and Omega) signifying that Jesus is the beginning and end of all things, a lily the symbol for Mary and two magpies for joy. Wild roses link the design to those on the screens of the Chapel. The word merle means blackbird in French, which explains another motif in the kneeler.
In the South wall is a single Piscina, and an arched recess, which may have marked the site of the tomb of the church’s founder. The screens and windows carry designs of the coats of arms of the families connected with the Chapel.