St Michael’s Mount

St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island in Mount’s Bay in Cornwall, linked to the small town of Marazion by a man-made causeway that is accessible between mid and low tide. Its nature is reminiscent of Mont St-Michel in Normandy, which shares in its tidal nature and its basic geographical shape. It was originally gifted to the Benedictine religious order that owned Mont St-Michel in 11th Century because of this resemblance and development since has continued to echo this French cousin.

The oldest standing structures on St Michael’s Mount date back to this settlement by Benedictine monks but there is definite evidence of human activity from circa 8000BC until 800BC. Despite this gap in archaeology, St Michael’s Mount is not considered to be a potential Otherworld Drowned Land as later evidence may have been destroyed by the existing structures.

However, Cornwall (and the Scillies) experienced flooding that may have shaped the interpretation and pattern of the Drowned Land folklore as well as the Arthurian Lyonesse. At extremely low tides, the remains of a hazel wood that dates to about 1700BC are exposed near to St Michael’s Mount. This wood is remembered in the Cornish name for the Mount, Karrek Loos yn Koos (Grey Rock in a Wood). Rising sea levels (or lowering land mass, depending on your interpretation of the geological processes) saw many of the bays encroached upon with the Scillies being referred to as one island in the Roman period to become the current 55 around the 6th Century. Some of the land-loss may have been considerably later as the Chronicon ex chronicis and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle both mention great sea floods in the vicinity of the Mount in 1099. The earliest mention of the Mount in the extent records was a little earlier in the same century as “Sanctus Michael beside the sea”.

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