Ancient Monuments

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Medieval chapel and hermitage called St Levan's Chapel

A Scheduled Monument in St. Levan, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.0396 / 50°2'22"N

Longitude: -5.6589 / 5°39'32"W

OS Eastings: 138111.296147

OS Northings: 21912.08392

OS Grid: SW381219

Mapcode National: GBR DXDL.4Q0

Mapcode Global: VH05T.V8QG

Entry Name: Medieval chapel and hermitage called St Levan's Chapel

Scheduled Date: 8 February 1978

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007285

English Heritage Legacy ID: CO 1057

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: St. Levan

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Levan

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a medieval chapel and hermitage, situated on the cliffs, overlooking the coastal bay of Porth Chapel. The chapel and hermitage survive as two small roofless rectangular buildings set side by side and levelled into the slope of the cliffs. They are built from large boulders and some coursed stone. The chapel building is to the east and stands a mere 1.1m from the hermitage or cell. The chapel measures approximately 3.8m long by 2.1m wide internally and is defined by walls of up to 1m high to the west and north (rear). A large earthfast stone takes up much of the north west corner. The southern wall is far lower and is crossed by a footpath. The original entrance was in this south wall.

The hermitage measures approximately 3.1m long by 2.6m wide internally. The rear wall stands to 1.4m high and the front wall, composed of a single large block up to 2m long and set on edge, is 1m high. An entrance faces the path at the east end. There are traces of plaster on the interior faces of both structures.

First recorded by Borlase in around 1750, the chapel was connected with the nearby holy well (the subject of a separate scheduling) by a path with steps. It had become completely overgrown by the time of a visit by Blight, but WC Borlase recorded that a Mr Masterman had rediscovered the chapel by 1878 and had noted the floor was roughly paved with thick granite flagstones and rough thick slates were found amongst the debris. The chapel and hermitage were planned by Thomas in 1959. The chapel may date back to the 7th or 8th centuries, although the wall plaster is probably of 11th or 12th century origin. The chapel and hermitage are associated with St Levan, a missionary who performed baptisms at the nearby holy well.

Sources: HER:-
PastScape Monument No:-421313

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A chapel is a building dedicated to Christian worship and may take a variety of forms. Some were connected with holy wells, water sources with specifically Christian associations. Dating from as early as the 6th century, they continued right through the medieval period but new foundations ended with the Reformation (c. 1540). A chapel could be built on or near the well and these may have had attendant priests or hermits and the wells were often used for baptisms. Following St Augustine's re-establishment of Christianity in AD 597, monasticism formed an important facet of both religious and secular medieval life in the British Isles. Although most monasticism centred on communities, some men and women chose to live solitary lives of contemplation and simplified religious observance, akin to those of the Christian fathers and early British saints. They lived in what we now refer to as hermitages, occupying secluded sites such as isolated islands and caves in river banks, marshy areas or forests. The hermits lived off alms or under the patronage of the nobility who established hermits to pray for the souls and well-being of their families. Hermitages were generally simple, comprising a dwelling area, an oratory or room set aside for private prayer, and perhaps a small chapel. Hermitages fell out of favour with the general dissolution of religious establishments in the middle of the 16th century. Around 500 hermitages are known from documents but the locations of very few have been identified and this is therefore a rare monument type. The medieval chapel and hermitage called St Levan's Chapel are connected with the nearby St Levan's Holy Well and form a complex of buildings associated with Christian worship. They will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to their construction, function,
longevity, religious, social and political significance, abandonment and overall landscape context.

Source: Historic England

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