Legends of Wales : Saint Govan.

St Govan's cove

Wales is rich in legends, and we have our fair share of saints. I have imagined here, in this prose /poem  the tale of Saint  Govan, who might have been the knight Gawain, or a beggar, or a thief ,in his life prior to his arriving in the place where his chapel is a place of interest still. They say he was running away from Ireland and that God gave him sanctuary. In exchange he stayed and rang his bell to warn whenever  marauders came to rob and pillage from the people who lived in the countryside around this piece of coast, until that is, the marauders stole his bell………….


Some say I was monk always, others, a thief.

I am both, for before I gave myself to God, I stole the life from she who bore me.

A knight I may have been before , in the bright days of my youth but all that is of little import after the moment.

Suffice it to say, whatever I might have been, whatever brought me to one perfect instant in late summer was sufficient to allow the Christ, in all his glory to reach into me and claim me as his own for evermore.

Whatever I was, whatever my misdeeds, my grievous youthful sins, the Holy one , thundered the salt ocean into my blood, hollowing me from the inside out so he may inhabit my very bones, his universal song echoing in the chambers of my heart.

True, I came here pursued , fleeing, softly sandaled and starkly robed, a memory of stones shifting , sharp edges worn away. The hand of god reaching through the bubbling foam to slide a place for me out of the rock. Taken out of the reach of the evil darkness into the radiance of my Lords love, I lay in the cave and heard the danger roll away with the tide.

But they came again. They  took my sweet bell, the silver of her tongue crying out across the bay.

St Govans Chapel
Ianto Mor Photography

The dark ones, devils in tatters, beards braided and eyes dull with honeyed spirits… the ones who come ashore at night and creep through from dune to village.

The ones who rape the beehives for their sweetness…. who drive the calf away from her mother, and empty the grain store of her bounty.

The dark devils who are a scourge and a curse, and for whom my bell was given. She, a warning and a comfort, to all good Christian men and women, who might hear her and be roused to defence.

Those dark devils, lifted her ,and stilled her ,and laughing at their own daring, made off with her to their craft, beached upon the shore in the dead dark of the moonless night.

Triumphant they rode the waves away into the morning, their gnarled hands an offence upon her shining beauty , their cold lascivious eyes an affront to her simple form.

But the angels came, swift and silent. The angels swooping like gulls, impossibly white , gold in their eyes, brows fierce and radiant as late sun on still water. Up they flew and around, filling the pale morning sky with feathered surprise.

cell supposedly used by Govan
cell supposedly used by Govan

They brought my bell back as easily as though it were a toy and set it low , just above the tide.

I watched while they considered how easily it might be taken again and then , in their wisdom with tender committed hands brought stone up and around and over, and closed about…there on the shore…closed entirely my beautiful bell.

For a moment I feared that her warning  voice would be stilled now, but when I struck the stone, the bell within rejoiced and her voice flew like a flock of doves to circle in sound above the waves, above the hills, across the heavens as perfect as the first day, the first note, striking…singing clear.

And so I remained.

St Govan


My life given over to the protection of the people who might seek me through all the ages, even to this time, a time I could never have envisaged in my wildest imaginings.

Climb the miraculous steps and be still so that the bell may speak to you even now.

Watch for my angels in their glory. Yes, even amongst the hurry and the fast flowing , you may glimpse them still, from the corner of your eye, or as a shadow that brushes past you as you climb.

Even now where my dusty bones lie in the hollow of the hill ,the sea sliding into my endless sleep, peace awaits you at the turning of the tide. Come home.



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embrokeshire legend that you would like Kitty to re-create? let us know below:-


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Kitty Parsons

Kitty Parsons

In love with the sea, gifted with an almost superhuman ability to bring chaos into order. Mostly tired and often to be found hibernating through the winter on the sofa, and bobbing about in the ocean in summer.

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