Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Saint Govan’s Chapel

St. Govan’s Chapel

St. Govan’s Chapel is a historic and picturesque chapel located on the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales. It’s situated on the cliffs near the village of Bosherston, perced on a limestone stack, overlooking the Bristol Channel.

Robin Gwyndaf’s “Capel Sant Gofan, Dyfed” identifies Gawain with Saint Govan, an Irish monk. Gawain retreated to Saint Govan’s Chapel after King Arthur’s death.

St. Govan’s Chapel | History

The Legends of Saint Govan
Saint Govan, also known as Gofan or Gobhan, is believed to have been an Irish monk who lived during the sixth century. According to legend, he came to the Pembrokeshire coast – on the back of a sea monster – and chose a secluded spot on the cliffs for his hermitage.

One of the most famous legends associated with St. Govan tells of his encounter with pirates. It is said that St. Govan sought refuge in the clefts of the rocks, and miraculously, the cliffs opened up to conceal him from the pirates. In gratitude, St. Govan blessed the spot, and a chapel was later built in his honor.

Another version is that St. Govan sought refuge from the pirates in the clefts and crevices of the rocks. At that critical moment, a mysterious and shining knight appeared on horseback. The knight rode down the cliffs, confronted the pirates, and drove them away. Some versions of the legend describe the knight as an angelic or supernatural figure.

St. Govan, grateful for the intervention, believed that the mysterious knight was sent by God to protect him. In thanksgiving, St. Govan blessed the spot where the knight had appeared, and a chapel was later built on that site.

The Construction of St. Govan’s Chapel
In the cliff there are a small cave where Govan lived, and the present chapel was built over the cave. The exact date of the construction of St. Govan’s Chapel is uncertain, but it is believed to date back to the thirteenth century or earlier. The chapel was built directly on the limestone cliffs and is a simple structure with a single chamber and a vaulted roof, made of limestone.

Site of Pilgrimage
St. Govan’s Chapel became a site of pilgrimage, with pilgrims seeking the blessings of the saint. The chapel also served as a place of worship and reflection. Near the chapel, there are two wells and one of them were believed to have healing powers. Both wells are now dry.

Access to the site involves descending a steep set of stone steps built into the cliffs. Legend has it that no matter how carefully you count the steps leading down to the chapel, from the footpath above, you will never get the same number when you walk back up.

“Capel Sant Gofan, Dyfed,” Welsh folk tales | Robin Gwyndaf, 1989