Guernsey’s most famous ancient monument sits just outside the entrance to St. Martin’s parish church.
This figure is thought to have been carved at two separate times. Firstly at around 2500 BC and then again during the Gallo-Roman period around 100 BC – 100 AD. This statue-menhir would have originally stood closer to what is now the church, facing east (remember she was here first!) and some books tell us that there was once a flat slab of stone at her feet which featured two ‘cup marks’ or hollows. I have looked around the graveyard for such a stone but can find no sign of it. If there was actually a stone there as claimed, it would have been like the ‘bullaun’ stones found throughout Ireland. These stones are usually for the making of offerings for prayers (or curses) and may suggest a Celtic link.
La Gran’mère had always (until recent times at least) been highly venerated by the local worshippers. Throughout the centuries, (we are told by Marie De Garis in ‘Folklore
of Guernsey’) she has been an object of awe and reverence and looked up to as a holy stone, ‘ch’tait énne pierre saine.’ We can often see flowers at her feet or coins placed on her head. She has also featured as an extra guest in many wedding photos!
The churchwarden ordered La Gran’mère to be destroyed in 1860 because he considered that the regard paid to the statue was ‘tantamount to idolatry’. La Gran’mère was broken in two but the parishioners protested so vigorously that she was cemented back together and placed in her current position. Noticeably outside the church environs now. It was only 18 years later that she was joined by the Castel Church statue-menhir. The St. Martins’ outcry may have also saved that one too, so well done those parishioners!