History & Legends
Explore an endless tale….
Open your eyes and ears to the stories that rise on the tide. Cormoran the Giant. Pilgrims from far and wide. Civil War soldiers. Fishermen. Whose words will you hear as you step ashore?
Peel back the layers of our island’s past
Pilgrims’ bare feet padding across the causeway. Soldiers’ heavy leather boots racing up to the battlements during the Wars of the Roses. The chant of monks’ prayer in the priory. The smell of canon gunpowder in the air. The thud of butter churning in the dairy. Champagne corks popping with the turn of each passing year, and laughter ringing out in the halls.
Stride into the Mount’s past and unearth a rich vein of history that flows from prehistoric times.
Taste four centuries of family life on the island as you unravel the history of the St Aubyns, glimpse the Mount’s changing faces, travel from monastery to fort, to iconic castle.
Step into a world of whispers and hearsay
The Mount has inspired storytellers through the ages – sharing tales of magic, myth and mystery. Giants, mermaids, miracles and more have all left their imprint. All you have to do is set foot on the island, look and listen. Who knows what you’ll discover?
Sacred safe haven
From as far back as 495AD, tales tell of seafarers lured by mermaids onto the rocks, or guided to safety by an apparition of St Michael. The patron saint of fishermen, it’s said the archangel St Michael appeared on the western side of the island – below where the entrance to the castle is today – to ward fishermen from certain peril. It’s a legend which has brought pilgrims, monks and people of faith to the island ever since, to pray, to praise and to celebrate.
And four miracles said to have happened here during 1262 and 1263 would have only added to the religious magnetism that drew pilgrims from far and wide.
The island is also an important landmark for those spiritual seekers, who say its unique energy is thanks to age-old ley lines which course under the sea, and cross at the heart of the Mount.
Whether it’s religious beliefs, spiritual energies, or simply the opportunity to take a breath and reflect, people of all sorts are drawn to pause and ponder here, in a place where even today miracles can happen.
The magic of the rock
By the side of the ancient church, the highest point of the Mount’s bedrock is clearly seen. Many believe that a truly romantic wish made touching this stone will be granted, especially before a proposal to marry.
The Cornish legend of Jack the Giant Killer is one our islanders know well. A gruesome beast who terrorised the land, Cormoran the giant made the Mount his home, stealing cattle when his tummy began to rumble. Only Jack, a young lad from Marazion – the town peering back at the Mount from the mainland – was brave enough to rid the town of its curse. One moonlit night, it’s said that he made his way across the cobbled causeway to lay a trap, before luring the monster out with a blast on his horn. What happened next takes a climb to the castle to discover. Will you be as bold as Jack and venture up the Mount to find the giant’s stone heart?
A magnetic draw
Imagine Neolithic man winding his way through towering woodland to watch livestock roam. Feel the same breeze as the Bronze Age settlers who hunted here. Be transported on white-crested waves back to a time of angels and visions.
Watch boats bobbing on to the harbour, where ships once creaked with Cornish tin and traders made their fortunes. The Mount may have evolved through the centuries but one thing has always remained the same. The way this unique island draws people in, to lay claim to the granite and call it their own.
The castle’s beginnings
By the time of the Norman conquest in 1066, St Michael's Mount had come into the possession of the monks of its sister isle, Mont St Michel in Normandy. In the 12th century it was their hands that built the church and priory that still lie at the heart of the castle today.
A site of conflict
From 1193 when the Mount was seized by Henry La Pomeray who disguised his men as pilgrims, through the Wars of the Roses in 1473 when the Mount was held by the Earl of Oxford, to the Civil War, when Royalists valiantly held back the forces of Oliver Cromwell – the Mount has weathered many times of battle. Gaze out across the rows of cannons which once drove a Napoleonic ship to its capture on Marazion beach or peer up to the top of the church tower where the first beacon was lit of the series that warned London of the approach of the Spanish Armada.
Find out more about our island’s rich history. Ask anyone in the community that calls the Mount their home, or take a village and castle tour with one of our island experts, who’ll combine the Mount’s rich history with their own first-hand knowledge.
Did you know? St Michael’s Mount used to have its very own herd of grazing cows, whose milk was churned in the island’s dairy to make cheese and butter for the islanders.
From a pilgrim’s path uncovered in the 1950s that is now the main route to the castle, to ancient tree stumps, blackened with age, unearthed in a recent storms, and Bronze age artefacts dug up by our gardeners – the Mount never ceases to surprise us. What secrets will it yield to you?