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 live in the UK, but when I was younger I spent several years travelling the world followed by a period living in South Africa. I look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

63 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. 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 😉

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. 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!!!

  6. 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 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.

  7. 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. 😦

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