The Legendary Land of Lyonesse
The lost land of Lyonesse is often mentioned in British and Cornish folklore. It joins other mysterious places such as Camelot and Avalon in King Arthur legends.
According to legend, Lyonesse once existed between the coasts of Cornwall and the Scillies. During the 16th century, an antiquarian named William Camden interviewed many Cornwall locals about their folklore beliefs. They often mentioned the “City of Lions”, and how they could sometimes hear the “ghostly bells” ringing out. It was said that only a man named Trevelyan escaped the sinking of Lyonesse by riding away on a white horse.
The legends say that Lyonesse sank to the bottom of the sea, just as Atlantis did. There have been field remains showing up at low tides along the Sampson Flats sands, which is between the islands of the Scillies. Could these alleged field remains be the lost land of Lyonesse? According to ancient Roman maps, the Isles of Scilly were all once linked together as a single island. Seven Stones Reef, which is located in the Scilly Isles, is said to have once been the capital of Lyonesse.
Lyonesse has been linked with Lothian, Scotland, as well as Leonais in Brittany, although neither of these places has ever “been lost to the sea”. According to the ancient Saxon Chronicle, Lyonesse was destroyed on November 11, 1099. The tale explains how the people, towns, and animals were taken by the sea. This date shouldn’t be taken too seriously though, as other versions of the tale date back to the 6th century.
Lyonesse plays a large part in many Arthurian legends. In some versions of the legend, King Arthur was born at Tintagel castle in Conrwall; in other tales, he was born in Lyonesse. In some tales, it was the ghost of Merlin who flooded Lyonesse. King Arthur and his fabled knights fled to Lyonesse to get away from the evil Mordred. They climbed to the highest peaks of the Scilly Isles while Merlin brought the tides in to sweep Mordred’s army away. It’s also been said that Sir Tristran’s uncle, King Mark, ruled over Lyonesse.
If the Isles of Scilly are all that remains of the Great Land of Lyonesse, can’t researchers search the waters surrounding The Scillies? Legends describe Lyonesse as being a “densely populated” area, containing many villages and churches. To this day some still claim to hear those church bells ringing from beneath the sea. So why then have no physical remains of the villages or churches ever been found?
Sometimes fishermen claim to pick up “old pieces of buildings” with their fishing nets, but unfortunately there’s no real, conclusive, scientific evidence. Despite that, people will continue being fascinated by tales of long, lost lands. We’ll perhaps never learn the truth of Atlantis, either, yet many people still believe in some of those legends.
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