Looe Island, Cornwall, UK
Looe Island, also known as St George's Island and previously, St Michael's island, sits just off the coast of Cornwall outside of Looe Harbour. It's a tiny island with a circumference of just one mile. Within this small space there is a variety of habitats from coastal cliffs, grazed grassland, sheltered nooks for growing fruit and vegetables, exposed rocky outcrops and sycamore woodland.
It's had a very varied history from prehistoric times to today's wildlife reserve but my interest lies in the Celtic Christian past and unearthing what was here.
There is a legend associated with the island that Joseph of Arimathea, the uncle of Jesus Christ (and the one in whose tomb He was laid), came here to Cornwall to trade tin before heading to Glastonbury. On one occasion it's told that he brought a young Jesus with him, who stayed on the island as Joseph conducted business on the mainland. It's interesting that the town's coat of arms depict this story and another which says they were stranded on Looe Island for three months. During this time Joseph's hair grew long. There's a local saying in Looe, 'you need to get a hair cut or you'll end up like Joseph', yet people don't know that this is the origin of the saying!
The cynics would say it's a legend fabricated by the medieval church to encourage pilgrimage to the island. I'm not partial to cynicism and modern people are quick to dismiss hagiography (history and legend mixed) as total myth, often in a rather supercilious fashion. I visited the island though, mainly because I'd also heard there was an early Christian Celtic chapel here and I'm drawn to such places.
We chose a deliciously sunny day to catch the ten minute boat ride across to the island. Met by the wildlife warden we were handed the map of the island and could explore at leisure for a couple of hours. Initially the wildlife and sea birds were mesmerising, as it was spring time and they were nesting, but I was keen to climb to the top of the island to where the chapel remains are located. There has been an archaeological dig here to try to discern the age of the chapel and it's worth viewing on YouTube, Time Team, Looe Island. They simultaneously do a dig at Lammana Celtic Chapel, directly opposite on the mainland. Both sites are early medieval Christian chapels dedicated to St Michael (Archangel Michael).
But if you follow my website, you'll know I'm not an historian or very focussed on the dates and details. I'm more the Christian mystic who visits a place to see what the deposit of the Living God is that remains there and to pray and meet with Him whilst there.
The visit to Looe Island was no different. The whole island is very peaceful. As you step off the boat onto the shingle beach, there's an immediate sense of peace and leaving the hustle and bustle of Looe well behind. If you've been to the Scilly Isles it's a very similar feeling. However, as I entered the compound of the chapel, that peace became heavy and a stillness came with it. This was a special place of God and I could immediately sense it. It still felt holy, set apart, despite the fact there's no earthly chapel or even ruins remaining, just a few stones and indentations in the ground and an incredible view.
I sat on a stone by the chapel and looked out to sea. What a typical place where the Christian Celts settled, right on the edge of the world, with nothing but sea on the horizon, an open expanse, a 'thin place'. It was so easy to sing in worship and like I've experienced in many such places, birds joined in as we did. This time it was a loud wren singing at the top of his voice.
I began to ask God what was happening in the realm of His Spirit as we were worshipping on the land. I began to see in a vision, swirlings of colour rising heavenwards, a thing I've seen before. This was made up of many wisps of different colours: yellow, bright blue, purple, green, orange and red, a riot of rainbow colours rising as incense from the chapel site. I felt God saying that this site has never been capped, never been closed down, despite some of the disreputable things which have gone on, on the island, such as smuggling. He continued, 'You will receive whatever you ask'. I hesitated, even though this is scriptural as in Matthew 7:7. Instead, I asked God what I should ask and heard, 'Ask what the Father is doing'. It reminded me that Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing. John 5:19. So I asked what the Father is doing. Immediately I had a vision of Father God looking down on Looe Island. In His hand was a large jug and He was pouring it out. A golden liquid which was quite viscous was coming from the jug. It didn't flow like water but came out in globs that were teardrop shaped. It was a thick fragrant honey oil and I sensed it was for healing, soothing, cleansing and to convey the very aroma of Jesus' presence. I asked God what I was looking at and heard a strange phrase which I don't have full understanding about yet. I heard, 'it's for the breaking of the silence'. I will ponder this and pray some more to get better understanding.
At this point, as I was immersed in God's sweet presence, the vision changed and I saw archangel Michael standing astride the island protecting it. But he was actually protecting a young Jesus! I saw him, aged about 14 or 15 and he was with Joseph of Aramathea, his uncle. The angel has his wings outstretched and is huge, far bigger than I can put into words of size. He reached high above the island and spread right across it. Nothing would be able to get passed him to Jesus who appeared tiny compared to his size. I watched Jesus, as if from a distance and He was joyfully praying to His Father in heaven and blessing the island. It was astounding to watch. I hadn't been thinking about the legend at all when worshipping and praying. I was just asking God for revelation if He wanted to show me anything or say anything. But this....this was incredibly special and very holy.
Sadly, at that moment, other island visitors arrived and the vision ended there but I hope to return and linger more in this special place where Jesus walked and in effect brought Christianity to our shores. Up until I saw this vision I thought the legend was probably unlikely. I've certainly changed my mind now, especially as it was Archangel Michael. There are so many places in Cornwall where this angel has appeared and continues to appear. So, there I'll leave it for whatever thoughts you may have. This was my experience on the island and it's very precious.
We continued exploring when back on the mainland and went to Lammana Chapel the other chapel dedicated to St Michael and of Celtic origin, which is directly opposite Looe Island. Pilgrims to the island came here before crossing over and some did pilgrimage here as it was often too dangerous to cross the seas to the island. I was expectant after what had happened on Looe Island. However, the experience was totally different. I entered the ruined compound and was immediately aware of darkness and a sinister feeling. I didn't want to linger and pray, so stepped outside to sit on a bench, thinking it might be easier there but before long I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, 'Don't linger in this place'. I've learnt to be obedient, so we left, worshipping as we went. However, just before we left I looked across at Looe Island and could see anangel standing astride it protectively. I’ve seen similar angels over each of the Scilly Isles.