Golant is a small village devoted to boats, fishing and peace and quiet. Some of the famous Troy boats are built here. It has two historical connections that make it unique, that of The Life of St Sampson and the story of Tristan and Iseult. The latter has many variations, one of which, goes as follows:
Tristan was a nephew of King Mark of Cornwall who was based at Castledore, and Iseult was an Irish princess betrothed to King Mark. Because of the hazards of travel in the 6th century Tristan was sent by his uncle to fetch Iseult. On the journey back from Ireland to Castledore she and Tristan fell in love and, inevitably, the human triangle was upset by the discovery of the lovers in compromising circumstances. Tristan fled to France where he was received with respect and he married the daughter of a local chief, another Iseult, but could not forget his first love. Wounded while hunting he became seriously ill, and sent a ship to Cornwall with a message for Iseult to come to France to nurse him back to health. He instructed his sailors to hoist black sails if their journey had been in vain, and white if she was aboard. His wife, discovering the plan, reported to Tristan that the sails were black whereas in fact they were white. Tristan died and, when Iseult arrived she too died and was buried beside her lover. Out of the graves grew two saplings, the branches of which became intertwined and it is said that 'in death they were united although parted in life '.
The link with the church of St Sampson is that King Mark and Iseult made their devotions in state here, and that Iseult gave her best dress to the church.
St Sampson's life is one of the earliest recorded. He is known to have studied near Howth in Co. Dublin and later travelled to Wales and then to Cornwall where he established himself where the church now stands, having erected a shelter near the Holy Well which can be seen by the South Door. When he left Golant he went on to Brittany where he became Archbishop of Dol. The church is of traditional Celtic design and some parts are said to date from 1200 AD. The present building was consecrated in 1509 and a restoration took place in 1842. There are five bells in the tower - the tenor dated 1807 weighs 6 cwt. There is interesting stained glass and much wood carving in the church.
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