Photos of Cornwall: Zennor Church and the legend of the mermaid

I recently went to Cornwall for a few days with one of my best friends. Like Devon, Cornwall is an amazing place where various natural landscapes and periods of human history gently overlap and fold into each other, creating a sense of size and our transient nature, bound, both as individuals and as a species, to the fact that we’re merely part of a much bigger story.

Right, enough waxing lyrically. One of the places we visit was the village of Zennor, famous for its mermaid.

The story of the Zennor Mermaid goes as follows:

Long ago, a beautiful and richly-dressed woman occasionally attended services at St. Senara’s Church in Zennor, and sometimes at Morvah. The parishioners were enchanted by her beauty and her voice, for her singing was sweeter than all the rest. She appeared infrequently for scores of years, but never seemed to age, and nobody knew whence she came, although they watched her from the summit of Tregarthen Hill. After many years, the mysterious woman became interested in a young man named Mathey Trewella, the best singer in the parish. One day he followed her home, and disappeared; neither was ever seen again in Zennor Church.

The villagers wondered what had become of the two, until one Sunday a ship cast anchor about a mile from Pendour Cove. Soon after, a mermaid appeared, and asked that the anchor be raised, as one of its flukes was resting on her door, and she was unable to reach her children. The sailors obliged, and quickly set sail, believing the mermaid to be an ill omen. But when the villagers heard of this, they concluded that the mermaid was the same lady who had long visited their church, and that she had enticed Mathey Trewella to come and live with her.

The parishioners at St. Senara’s commemorated the story by having one end of a bench carved in the shape of a mermaid. And the bench is still in the church to this day.

Below are some pictures from St. Senara’s Church:

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