Witness the treasures of a place of religion, a place of war and a place that once linked West Cornwall to the rest of the world.
Rewind to classical times when the island was a thriving port for the booming tin industry. Around two thousand years ago trading ships sailed into the Mount’s harbour and exported Cornish tin to the rest of Europe.
Religion followed the traders: an apparition of the Archangel St Michael is said to have been witnessed by fisherman in 495 and by the sixth century AD it is thought that the Mount was a thriving religious centre. After the Norman Conquest, the abbey was granted to the Benedictine monks of Mont St Michel in France. The church on the island’s summit was built by the French Abbot, Bernard le Bec, and through the Middle Ages the Mount became a major pilgrimage destination. Four miracles, said to have happened here between 1262 and 1263 would have only added to its religious magnetism.
Despite being a place of prayer, from time to time the Mount felt the steel of combat and has survived sieges and battles throughout the ages. In 1193, it was seized by Henry La Pomeray, who disguised his men as pilgrims. In 1473, during the War of the Roses, the Earl of Oxford held the island under siege for six months. In 1588, it was on St Michael’s Mount that the first beacon was lit to warn of the arrival of the Spanish Armada. And during the Civil War, between 1642 and 1646, Royalists valiantly held the Mount against the forces of Oliver Cromwell. On a trip to this mighty fortress, set your sights on the watchtower, the murdering hole, suits of armour and gun emplacements that tell stories from times of war.
It’s not only the castle that has a story to tell; meander around the buildings of the thriving 18th century village, with its net lofts, stables, pilchard press and pubs. The Change House to the entrance of the causeway is where castle residents used to change into their swimsuits, the St Aubyn Arms still stands on the harbour (although it stopped serving drinks in 1902) and the village green harks back to when bowling was a popular sport.
Purchase a history book on your visit and open your eyes to the rich and turbulent past of St Michael’s Mount.