June 20, 2018

Saint Govan the Hermit (+ 586)

St. Govan the Hermit (Feast Day - June 20)

Saint Govan was an Irish monk who traveled to Wales late in life to seek the friends and family of the abbot who had trained him, variously identified as Saint David or Saint Ailbe of Emly. He was set upon by pirates, from Ireland or the nearby Lundy Island. The cliff opened up and left a fissure just big enough for him to hide in until the pirates left. In gratitude, he decided to stay on along the cliff, probably to help warn the locals of the impending pirate attack if they were to return.

Saint Govan lived within a small cave in the fissure of the cliff. This is now reached by a long flight of stone steps, the number of which is said to vary depending on whether one is ascending or descending. The fissure is on the side of the coastal cliff near Bosherston, in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Wales. Saint Govan's Chapel was built in the fissure in the fourteenth century on what is now known as Saint Govan's Head.

Saint Govan may be identified with Sir Gwaine, one of King Arthur's knights, who entered into a state of retreat in his later years. More probable his name was Gobham, and was the abbot of a Celtic monastery in Wexford, Ireland. Originally Saint Govan caught fish and took water from two nearby springs. Both are now dry; one was where the medieval chapel now stands, the other, which was lower down the cliff, later became a holy well. A legend says Saint Govan's hand prints are imprinted on the floor of his cave, and his body is buried under the chapel's altar. The cave was once a popular place for making wishes.