St Govan and his chapel in the cliffs
A number of accounts surround the origins and life of this saint of the early Catholic Church (not the
Celtic Church as stated on the literature). Pembrokeshire National Park
|Halfway down a cliff - hidden from Viking eyes!|
The main elements and the common ones are as follows.
He came from Country Wexford in
, he lived in the sixth century and he was an Abbot; that much, at least, seems to be pretty certain. He died in the year 586. Ireland
We shall not know the certainty in this world.
So here we have a single traveller monk; apparently then set upon by pirates from whom he hid in a fissure in the cliff face which then miraculously opened up and closed around him until said pirates had grown bored with their search and set off to undertake piratical duties elsewhere.
Overcome with a) gratitude or b) remorse at his ‘cowardice’ (you choose) the holy monk set up home on a damp and draughty cave adjacent to the fissure that had shielded him.
After his death (or, maybe before he died), it’s all a little vague, a stone chapel was erected over the site of his cave ‘cell’. Half way up or down the cliff, depending on how you views things; not high church, not low church but certainly Catholic Church.
|Looking west, to Ireland|
and North America
Some wonderful stories surround St Govan. There is one involving the chapel bell which was stolen by pirates – some things never change as, even today, church bells are in demand by the criminal element who then sell them for their scrap value. But back to the pirates. A group of angels (what is the collective noun for angels?) descended upon on the pirates and retrieved the bell.
They returned to the chapel but, for safekeeping, they entombed the bell in a massive rock (now known as Bell Rock) alongside the chapel.
And ever after the saint would only have to strike the rock for the bell to sound at a volume estimated to be one thousand times louder than the original bell itself.
The crevice that saved him is still visible to the left hand side of the altar, and the sides of the fissure show rib like characteristics. Legend says they are the imprints of St Govan's body as he lay concealed there. Other legends say that if a person makes a wish and enters the fissure, and is able to turn himself around, his wish will be granted. That is, of course, not a Catholic legend.
For those who may wish to visit this unique chapel, they should head across the
Severn Bridge from England into and proceed, in a westerly direction until they reach Pembrokeshire. Then head for Bosherston, famous for its beautiful lily ponds, and the Ordnance Survey reference is SR967929. Wales
|The 74 steps......a penance coming back up!|