The island with the former Benedictine monastery, St Michael’s Mount near Marazion in Cornwall, is one of those rare and singular objects which impress the mind with sensations of adoration, pleasure, and astonishment, the instant it is seen.
This mountain, encircled with the sea, is 0.3 miles from the shores of Marazion. At high water it appears, to be considerably diminished in its circumference, but even this variation adds much to the beauty and magic of the scene. It then seems to be a mass of natural rocks partly clothed with greenery. At low water, it may be approached within 5 minutes over a kind of thoroughfare formed of pebbles and shingle, raised slightly above the bed of sand, across which it stretches.
When this hill was first dedicated to religious worship, there can be little doubt that it was very early, perhaps as soon as Christianity first gained a footing in Cornwall. At that early period, such hills were deemed suitable to sanctity and quickly attracted the notice of those who wished to live retired from the world. Hermits and pilgrims, renouncing the pleasures of life, retired among rocks and took up their abode among hills difficult of access. Here they became admired for their self-discipline and honored by novices who were very keen to succeed them in their spiritual and holy undertakings.
The pilgrims in those days, had a tradition, that the celestial inhabitants occasionally visited these hills. Among the rest, Michael, the archangel, was supposed to be very fond of sitting among these rocks and rendering himself visible to the naive monks. The monks who first inhabited the Cornish Mount laid claim to this angelic vision, and allegedly showed the spot on which the angel sat. A tough pile of rocks, that seemed most difficult of access, and which thus obtained the honorable name of Saint Michael’s Mount.
Colonel John St. Aubyn, who was appointed Captain of St Michael’s Mount in 1647, purchased the tidal island in 1659. Sir John St. Aubyn, who was made 1st Baron St Levan in 1887, made many improvements on this rock, to whom the increase of buildings and inhabitants is to be attributed.
The number of residences has since been enlarged to upwards of fifty, which forms a small village composed of four short streets, and about three hundred inhabitants.