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History and legends

Open your eyes and ears to the stories that rise on the tide: from the Archangel Michael to Jack the Giant Killer. 

Pilgrims’ bare feet padding across the causeway. Soldiers’ heavy leather boots racing up to the battlements. The chant of monks’ prayer in the priory. Stride into the Mount’s past and unearth a rich vein of history that flows from prehistoric times.

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 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 become immersed in the uplifting atmosphere of the Mount.

Giant rumblings

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. 

It's said that one moonlit night, 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?

The castle’s beginnings

By the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066, the island had come into the possession of the Benedictine abbey of Mont St Michel in Normandy.  Construction began in 1135 on the church and priory buildings at the summit.

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.

When visiting, look out for the online island tour created by Lord St Levan. It's simple! Just scan the QR codes at the Pilgrim Steps with the camera on your smart phone to get information on the island, summit, castle rooms, artefacts and family life within the castle walls.