Compiled by Dr. Patrick Roper
This short paper is very much a provisional account of the material that has gone to make up the Lyonesse story over the years. Research on the topic is in active progress and further information and links will be added regularly. Please feel free to sign our guestbook (at the bottom of this page) or email any comments or observations to Patrick Roper, its author, on firstname.lastname@example.org
raditionally Lyonesse, an extensive country with 140 churches, was a land that lay between Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to the south west of the United Kingdom. It has also been equated with the Little Sole Bank, an under-sea hill on the edge of the Celtic shelf to the south west of the Isles of Scilly and with the Isles of Scilly themselves. It is sometimes said that the Cornish language name for Lyonesse was Lethowsow, but this refers only to the Seven Stones reef between Land's End and the Isles of Scilly, a place said to be all that is left of the City of Lions, one of the Lyonesse towns.
According to legend, Lyonesse disappeared beneath the sea and this has led to its sometimes being identified - or confused with - Atlantis. The country is frequently mentioned in Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur written in the 15th century and by other authors of this period, although there is no mention of its inundation. It does not, however, feature in any of the earlier sources written between the 6th and the 11th centuries, sources that were extensively quarried by later authors in the creation of the Arthur and Tristan stories. The earliest mention I have so far tracked down is in a 13th century French poet called Beroul who refers to it as Loenois.
Lyonesse (sometimes spelt, particularly by 19th C authors, as "Lyonnesse" and by Malory and others as "Liones") was a large place with many towns and 140 churches. This latter idea has given rise to various folk tales of muffled church bells chiming under the sea off Land's End and so on. There is an account of it in Camden's Britannia of 1586 and he is said to have got much of his information from Carew's A Survey of Cornwall. In the revised and enlarged edition of Britannia published by Edmund Gibson in 1695 the Lyonesse entry is as follows:
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© 1999 Dr. Patrick Roper