A Mermaid in a Church?

That’s right. You didn’t misread the title. There is a little church in Zennor, west-Cornwall that is home to a mermaid.

Why a mermaid?

Before the Christian era, mermaids were one of the symbols for Aphrodite, Goddess of the sea and of love. In one hand she held a quince (love apple) and in the other a comb. Later the quince was changed to a mirror, symbol of vanity and heartlessness.


In the Middle Ages, when Cornish mystery plays were performed, the mermaid was used as a symbol to explain the two natures of Christ. She was both human and a fish. He was both a man and god.

Mermaid frescoes are found in other Cornish churches – Breage, Poughill and Altarnun – but Zennor is the only one with a carving.


The mermaid reminds us that St Senara also came by sea and founded a church at Zennor more than 1400 years ago.

The Legend of the Chair

The only remaining Medieval bench ends carved over 500 years ago are linked to the chorister Matthew Trewhella who, it is said, was lured into the sea at Pendour Cove by a mermaid who came into the church to hear his beautiful singing.

source: Zennor Church

Dawn of Lingering Look at Architecture has churches as the topic for the month of June so I am linking this post to her challenge.

And I shall link it to Paula’s Thursday Special too as she is interested in things from the past this week.

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I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

68 thoughts on “A Mermaid in a Church?”

  1. That seat/bench is amazingly well preserved to be 500 years old. Beautiful carvings too with an interesting story.

    1. I assume that it is more likely to be the side panels that are 500 years old and the seat etc has been replaced over the years. It’s a lovely carving.

  2. Came back for a proper look and to share now that I’m up and running again. Smart phones do have their uses but it’s more like dipping your toe in the water than ‘real’ life. What am I saying? We live in our little bubble world here in blogland 🙂 Loved reading the conversations on the way down. I should be out prospecting for more wild orchids but it’s wet. 😦

      1. Don’t know that one. Will look out for it. Last 20 pages of Shantaram to be finished in the bath tonight (with a glass of red) Yay! 🙂

  3. Beautiful seat. I’m so glad you are sharing your posts again as otherwise I would never have seen this x

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