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. This is amazing information Jude. Thank you for linking. Is this Zenor church open for services, and can anybody sit on that chair/bench? I’am really amazed. Thanks to you and Jo of course 🙂

    1. I hadn’t until another comment. I looked it up and it does sound as though this chair is similar to what is described in the book. A good read?

  2. Very cool !!! Raqi got a mermaid tail for her birthday and she is completely worn out after a couple hours of maneuvering it around the pool. Last week we met a younger girl who had the exact same tail. They were the envy if all their poolmates 😀

    That bench is drop-dead gorgeous.

      1. I know!! Kids these days get to live way more of their fantasies. Time will tell if that dampens their expectations of adulthood !!

        Great writeup in today’s paper about the Poldark series. I about choked when I read the original tv series was 40 YEARS AGO !!!! Geez, that makes Ross and Delmelza doddering mid-60s just like me! I wonder where those two fabulous actors are today.

        1. Scary isn’t it when you realise something was 40 years ago and it feels like it only happened yesterday. My mother died 20 years ago this year and I just can’t believe that either! Where is the time going?

        2. Exactly! Sorry you lost your Mother relatively early in life. I cannot believe I’m already scheduling things for July!!!

  3. What an interesting little piece of history! That bench actually looks like it’s quite small … almost for a child by today’s standard. Am I right?

    1. I think it is probably the perspective – I’d say two adults could sit on it as long as they have skinny bottoms 😉

  4. Howfascinating. I really enjoyed reading this. The sacred mermaid is a wonderful concept

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