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St Michael's Mount

St Michael's Mount is a lofty pyramidal island, exhibiting a curious combination of slate and granite, rising 400 yds. from the shore of Mount's Bay, in Cornwall, England. It is united with Marazion by a natural causeway cast up by the sea, and passable only at low tide.


If its identity with the Mictis of Timaeus and the Ictis of Diodorus Siculus be allowed, St Michael's Mount is one of the most historic spots in the west of England. It was possibly held by a body of religious in the Confessor's time and given by Robert, count of Mortain, to Mont Saint Michel, of which Norman abbey it continued to be a priory until the dissolution of the alien houses by Henry V, when it was given to the abbess and Convent of Syon. It was a resort of pilgrims, whose devotions were encouraged by an indulgence granted by Pope Gregory in the nth century.

The Mount was captured on behalf of Prince John by Henry Pomeroy in the reign of Richard I. John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford, seized it and held it during a siege of twenty-three weeks against 6000 of Edward IV's troops in 1473. Perkin Warbeck occupied the Mount in 1497. Humphry Arundell, governor of St Michael's Mount, led the rebellion of 1549. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth it was given to Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, by whose son it was sold to Sir Francis Basset. Sir Arthur Basset, brother of Sir Francis, held the Mount against the parliament until July 1646. It was sold in 1659 to Colonel John St Aubyn and is now the property of his descendant Lord Levan. The chapel is extra-diocesan and the castle is the residence of Lord St Levan.

Many relics, chiefly armour and antique furniture, are preserved in the castle. The chapel of St Michael, a beautiful 15th-century building, has an embattled tower, in one angle of which is a small turret, which served for the guidance of ships. Chapel rock, on the beach, marks the site of a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary, where pilgrims paused to worship before ascending the Mount. A few houses are built on the hillside facing Marazion, and a spring supplies them with water. The harbour, widened in 1823 to allow vessels of 500 tons to enter, has a pier dating from the I5th century, and subsequently enlarged and restored.

St Michaels Mount is still owned by the St Aubyn family, but visitor access is controlled by the National Trust.

Article based upon 1911 Encylopedia Brittanica entry