Englands Atlantis – The Story of Lyonesse

The Lost Mythical Land of Lyonesse

The story of Lyonesse is commonly referred to as England’s own Atlantis. The story of the vanishing Kingdom has been foretold through numerous Arthurian tales, and French stories that date back to the 12th century, however, original Celtic stories of cataclysmic floods have not survived, are believed to be the inspiration behind Lyonesse.

The mythical land appears as Loenois in the French tale of Tristan and Iseult, and in some Arthurian stories, its sometimes referred to as the birthplace of King Arthur’s wife, Guinevere.

Lyonesse was once said to have been a thriving country, boasting 140 churches, many towns, lush landscapes, and a capital city known as the “City of Lions”. But all this came to end, after a huge flood wiped it off the map completely.

The only survivor of the flood, was a man named Trevelyan, having a rode a white horse to high ground. The Trevelyan family coat of arms still depicts a horse emerging from water with the helmet of a knight on top.

The country of Lyonesse is said to have been located between Cornwall and the isles of Scilly.

The Kings of Lyonesse

There is a list of 4 known kings, which derives from medieval English texts about Tristan, along with some Italian texts which are also centered around the same legend.

There is a list of 4 known kings, which derives from medieval English texts about Tristan, along with some Italian texts which are also centered around the same legend.

The first of the four kings was named Felig, or Felix, who took the throne in 445AD. His son Meliodas ap Felig was his successor in 475AD, who was then succeeded by his son Tristan in 510AD. Tristan’s Son, Tristan the younger, succeeded him and was the last recorded king in 537AD

Any Truth to the Legend?

Though the story is often taken as fictitious and built upon by imagination, some Anglo Saxon chronicles which were compiled from the 9th to 12th century, describe disastrous sea floods. Two prominent floods happened on November 3 1099, and St. Martins Day on November 11th 1099. The problem is, the chronicle doesn’t give us a location as to where the floods happened, but according to tradition, Lyonesse was submerged around the 10th and 11th century. The floods that happened around the same time, must have been prominent enough for them to have been recorded in the chronicles.

William of Worcester (1415-1482) describes a place submerged beneath the sea. He describes woods, 140 parish churches, meadows and fields, which he said was located between St Michaels Mount (Cornwall) and the Isles of Scilly. Though what he found, he never named.

St Michael's Mount Cornwall Lyonesse

St Michael’s Mount was once known as Carrack Looz en Cooz “ The grey rock in the wood”, and in legend, it’s known as the place that the last king of the Cornish giants fought king Brute of Britain during prehistoric times.

It was said to be surrounded by an immense forest which extended all the way to Lyonesse. This forest later became a hunting ground for numerous kings.

As the sea engulfed Lyonesse, the forest too sank with it, but at low tide, stumps of previous woodland can still be seen, giving the story at least some credibility.

Some fisherman have also claimed to hear the church bells of Lyonesse ringing out during storms at sea.

How was it destroyed?

The main story of its destruction is of Christian origin, which claims the inhabitants had strayed far from God, and so God punished the people by sending a huge wave to destroy them. Trevelyan who survived, remained pure and faithful to God throughout his days. This story though, is often thought to be used as a moral teaching, rather than anything factual.

Though it’s not known for sure how it was destroyed, as there seems to be differing accounts throughout numerous tales.

The story of Lyonesse has inspired numerous writers and creative minds throughout the ages, and it continues to intrigue and inspire today.

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