Saint Levan, Hermit of Cornwall

October 14 is the Commemoration of Saint Levan (Selevan, Selyr, Selyf), Hermit of Cornwall

“Prince Selevan of Dumnonia, like his brother, St. Just, entered the church. He was known by the commom people as St. Levan and he lived in the village now named after him. Originally he settled in Bodellan, but quickly moved on to St. Levan, treading the path that still exists today between there and Chapel Porth Cove (alias Porth Selevan). On the clifftop here stands his well and a flight of steps descend to the ledge were the remains of his chapel and hermitage.
St Levan stone
In the churchyard at St. Levan is a large rounded pre-christian sacred boulder. The clever saint used the site of this pagan idol to build a church, so its holy reputation was maintained. St. Levan used the stone as a resting place on which to sit on his return from his numerous fishing trips. He often preached from here. Just before he died Levan struck the stone hard with his fist. The rock split in two and the saint declared:
When, with panniers astride,
A pack-horse, one can ride,
Through St. Levan’s stone,
The World will be done.
We’ve got some way to go yet! One writer declared in 1881 that despite knowing the stone for fifty years he had never discerned any movement at all.
Levan ate but one fish a day, and refused to fast even on the Sabbath. Once while on his way to do a little fishing on a Sunday, the saint was rebuked by a local woman named Joanna who was out tending her herb garden. The saint quickly retorted that fishing was no worse than gardening. The woman insisted he was in the wrong. An argument ensued in which St. Levan finally called the woman a fool and proclaimed that in the future any child of the parish called Joanna would find herself to be as stupid as her namesake. Hence no Joannas have since been born in St. Levan.
On one of his fishing trips he caught two chad (bream) on the same hook. Only wanting his customary one fish, he threw them both back, but a second and a third time the two returned to his hook. Taking this as a sign, St. Levan eventually returned home with the both fish and found his sister, St. Breaca, awaiting him with her two sons. St. Levan cooked the chad and served them up to the two ravenous children, but the unfortunate pair neglected to remove the bones and both choked on their dinner. The accursed fish have since been known as chuck-cheels or “Choke-childs”. “

“St Levan was born near St Buryan in the sixth century and was one of numerous Celtic saints who established hermitages around the Cornish coast when Christianity was under siege by the Anglo-Saxon pagans who flooded into Britain after the Romans left. These tiny chapels were usually near a beach (many of the saints arrived by sea from Brittany, Ireland and Wales) and were always near a spring which provided the hermit’s drinking water. St Levan’s chapel was near the beach at Porth Chapel and linked by about 50 stone steps to the well on the hillside above. The name Levan is a corruption of St Selevan, the Celtic form of Solomon.”
St Levan's Well
“St Levan’s Holy Well is close to the Hermit Cell of St Levan – there’s a flight of 40-50 stone steps leading down to it. These are the original medieval steps, leading from the beach at Porthchapel down to the St. Levan Holy Well which were discovered and uncovered in the 1930s as part of an excavation by Rev. H T Valentine and Dr Vernon Favell.
The holy well of St Levan is alongside the path on the clifftop above Porth Chapel beach. Here you will see three walls of large granite blocks, about 4′ high, and a floor which is a huge slab of granite covering the spring which flows out at the southern end.
Below the well there used to be another ancient chapel and burial ground, lost over the cliffs. Locals called the well Parchapel Well and those recorded 160 years ago by Blight (1850s) remembered how, in their youth, they’d visit Parchapel Well twice a year, for repairs and to clean it out and clear the ground around it. The steps leading down to the well were also weeded, cleared and sanded. Parchapel Well would be dressed at the beginning of May every year as well as at Feasten tide. Water from St Levan’s Well was collected and taken to the church for baptisms.”
St Levans Church
For St Levan’s Hermit Cell and St Levan’s Church, see further:


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