Giants, Benedictine Monks, and a Seven-Foot Skeleton.
A mystical Thursday morning on St Michael's Mount.
This week I am in Cornwall, enjoying some relaxation on the South West coastline. Having spent much of my childhood in Cornwall, I had driven past the awe-inspiring silhouette of St Michael’s Mount more times than I can remember. Yesterday morning, however, I caught a glimpse of this colossal fortress emerging from the sea and it occurred to me that I had never actually seen the island up close. For some reason unbeknownst to me, I had never step foot upon St Michael’s Mount, despite the fact that I had spent much time within sight of the island in the nearby village of Perranuthnoe.
Having booked tickets to see the castle with my boyfriend, we left the house at 9am this morning and took the ten-minute drive to Marazion where we parked the car. I was very excited to see the island up close. The castle exudes a great majesty, and it was not long before we recognised the island as a place of history, spirituality, conquest, and adventure. Once we had crossed the snake-like pathway which connects the mainland to the harbour of the island, disappearing completely under the force of the sea at high-tide, we were welcomed to St Michael’s Mount by a number of very friendly and helpful guides working with the National Trust to encourage tourists and visitors to explore the island’s history.
We passed the harbour and climbed the steep path up the The Pilgrim’s Steps, past the Giant’s Well, beyond the Giant’s heart towards the summit, where we found an immense fortress guarded by 19th-century canons created during the Napoleonic Wars. Since the 17th century, the castle has been owned by the St Aubyn family who still reside there today. Whilst the interior was quite spectacular, and hosted an array of interesting historical artefacts including weaponry, portraits, and a mummified cat (?), what best caught my attention was the incredible views over the sea. The roof of the castle allowed for breathtaking sea-views, whilst canons and ramparts made me feel transported back in time to the seat of a 15th-century military invasion. Standing outside the Church of St Michael & All Angels, a mixture of religious and military history fills the air with an almost fantastical, mystical quality. As I climbed the stairs to a view-point over the castle gardens, I expected a creature out of medieval fantasy – a dragon, perhaps – to fly over the castle and terrorise the islanders with scorching flames. The villagers would run inside, whilst the castle defences would hurriedly be put to use in order to kill the beast who, with lungs perfused with fire, would turn stone and rock into smoulders of blackened rubble.
Thankfully, there were no dragons over Marazion this morning, and so we entered the small Church undisturbed. The interior aesthetic of the Church was rather inoffensive, but what turned from a relatively mundane ecclesiastical building quickly turned into a place of great mystery and excitement. Upon discovering a set of small and narrow winding steps, which lead beneath the Church, we enquired as to where they led. A friendly and informative guide told us that the room underneath the Church was the sight of a quite astounding 19th-century discovery: a 7ft human skeleton. Naturally, I was quite astonished, as I’m sure were the 19th-century individuals who uncovered the remains of this giant human being. Who was this person, how long had he laid here, and why was he here? All of these questions flooded my mind at once. His skeleton remains a mystery, adding yet another layer of historical mysticism to the island…