St Govan’s Chapel

Pembrokeshire: Land of Legends

Tucked into the cliffs on the Castlemartin Range, St Govan’s Chapel is a great place to explore.​

St Govan and the Pirates

St Govan is said to have had at least two close encounters with pirates – you can still see the evidence today.


Long, long ago, in the 5th or 6th century, there lived in Pembrokeshire a saint by the name of St Govan. Alas, one day when St Govan was walking along the south coast of the county, he was seen and pursued by a gang of bloodthirsty pirates.

Miraculously as he was running away from these pirates, a cleft opened up in the cliff above him and he was able to tuck inside it and hide. It was such a squash and a squeeze in that place, however, that even today you can still see the marks his rib cage made on the rocks.

St Govan stayed in hiding until the pirates sailed away.  Then, miraculously, the cleft in the rock opened up once again. But St Govan quickly decided that the safest thing for him would be to continue living in that rocky cell.

The way he survived was by eating fresh fish from the ocean and drinking water from a sacred spring that flowed nearby. He also had a magic bell and this St Govan would always ring, most probably to warn anyone else in the area, whenever the pirates returned.

The pirates were not happy about St Govan’s bell and cunningly they managed to steal it.  However, justice was done to those evil men when a terrible storm blew up, and in the storm, their ship was sunk.

Angels then came and retrieved the bell. When they brought it back to St Govan, they encased it in the middle of a huge rock so that it would never again be stolen. Thereafter, whenever St Govan tapped this rock in times of need, it sounded a note a thousand times stronger than the original bell.

If you go down to St Govan’s chapel today you can still see ‘bell rock’. Legend has it that if you make a wish while standing in the rock cleft it will come true – as long as you don’t change your mind before you turn around.