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. I like the seat, and the old carving. It shows its age wonderfully. The fish-cushion is very appropriate too. It’s a long time since I have seen Zennor Cove Jude. That took me back.
    Regards as always, Pete. x

    1. The fish cushion is a delight Pete. Zennor is so lovely, you have to visit it if only for the name! We didn’t venture to the coast though – next time 🙂

  2. Ah, this reminds me of the book The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd. It feels kinda magical just looking at it and I LOVE that cushion with the fishes. Magical post Jude 🙂

  3. How wonderful, love the photos and the story, Jude! The Mermaid bench looks spectacular, what a beauty. You know our two little girls, they are all excited now and want to ask you if visited any Bookfayrie houses as well?
    Lost of love from the four of us, Dina x

      1. I suppose that’s the next best thing. 😉 Suddenly it’s boiling hot in Bonn (30+°) , have to dive in shade, phew. All the best!

        1. Wow that IS hot! Very cloudy here, but when that sun breaks through it has got some heat in it – Glastonbury this weekend though so I guess it will rain 😉

  4. I remember visiting here – and thank you explaining the presence of mermaids here. Cornwall has strong fishing tradition and sailors have different beliefs – mermaids included. They need all the prayers they can get from whatever god of the sea.

        1. Saw something about it on a news program here last night – the Confederate Flag? Opinion seemed divided. I’ll check out your blog on Monday.

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