Cornwall and the Celtic Saints
CORNISH CELTIC SAINTS
This summary list is not necessarily complete but is still being compiled. There are sometimes different accounts or different opinions about some of these saints, as well as variance in spelling of names.
SAINT ADWEN (ADVENT): female
Advent near Camelford
Patron saint of sweethearts
AGNES female Roman
She lived in the 4th century and there are miraculous tales, including turning the devil to stone and defeating the giant Bolster and throwing him over a cliff.
St Allen, nr Truro
Bishop of Quimper in France
ANTA: Irish, female
Chapel Aingar, Black Rock on River Hayle
Lelant: was known as Lanata = church site of Anta
They had a chapel on the rocks at the entrance to the Hayle River, possibly at the site known as Chapel Anjou. It had a light to warn ships of danger. She was a virgin
Mewan brought him to faith and baptised him and became his godfather. They were friends and both ordained. They lived in a monastery in Brittany with Sampson. Mewan, Austell and Sampson founded St Mewan and St Austell. Mewan predicted he would die first, which he did. Austell died one week later.
BREACA: female, Irish
Breage: village near Helston
A disciple of Patrick and Brigid. She came over with her brother Germoe and other companions in 460AD. The landed at REYVER on the east bank of the River Hayle. She lived a solitary life with great sanctity. Her church became famous for pilgrimages and miracles.
St Breward on Bodmin Moor
He travelled to Brittany and the Channel Islands
BRIOC: male, Welsh
St Breock nr Wadebridge
From Dyfed, Cardiganshire, west Wales. He was known for miracles, charity, and mercy. An angel appeared to his parents and told them to send him to Germanus in Brittany. On meeting Germanus a dove hovered over his head. He met Patrick and Illtyd in Brittany. He returned to Wales and converted his parents. He led 168 companions through Cornwall on the Saints Way to Brittany where he founded a monastery. His nephew is Tudy
One account says he landed in Cornwall with 3 wives, 12 sons and 12 daughters. Children included Endellion, Issey, Kew, Mabyn, Minver, Teath, Keyne all name places which still exist.
BUENO: Welsh male
Culbone Chapel, Exmoor
Friend of Dubricius
BUDOC: male, Irish of French parents
Budock nr Falmouth
An Irish hermit who settled at Budock. He was the son of King Azenor of Brittany who was exiled in a cask. Budoc was born at sea.
BURYAN (Buriana, Brriona, Beryan): female, Irish
St Buryan, west Penwith
Veryan nr Truro
Buryan was an Irish 6th century woman. The current church at St Buryan dates to King Athelstan and was built to house her relics. The town was a Christian hub in the far west of Cornwall and had a college for canons. Buryan cured the son of King GERENT of paralysis, through prayer. It was a miracle.
Veryan near Truro is derived from Buryan and is near Gerrans Bay derived from Gerent.
Legend goes that Gerran abducted her and Piran intervened for her release. The conditions were set that she would only be released if a cuckoo called across a snow-covered field. Piran prayed all night and it happened.
Ball nr Mawgan
St Cadoc’s well is at Ball nr Mawgan. He built a hermitage here so Mawgan could hear his confession. He is Petroc’s nephew
CARANTOC Welsh male
Crantock on north coast on River Gannel
He was a Welsh minor chieftain. He went to Ireland to learn under Patrick, then came to Cornwall in a coracle. He cast his altar stone into the sea as a guide. He had a pet dove that showed him the site where he settled. It’s on the River Gannel where the current Crantock church is sited. It was a missionary centre including Enedoc and Columb.
Legend: King Arthur asked him to rid the land of a marauding dragon. Carantoc prayed and immediately the dragon ran to him with a loud noise and bent its head. He put his priest’s stole around its neck. It didn’t harm him with its wings or claws. He didn’t kill it but led it away. He moved in the supernatural and miracles.
CLEER (Clarus) male, English
St Cleer nr Bodmin Moor
He preached on the edge of Bodmin Moor and was celibate. He had a holy well and two Celtic crosses. The local chieftainess fell in love with him and pestered him so much he fled to France where he lived in an isolated hermitage. The angry woman pursued him and had him murdered.
COLUMBA: Irish female
Ruthvoes, nr St Columb Major
She was imprisoned by her parents for her faith but escaped them and a tyrant who wanted to marry her. She was pursued to Cornwall and beheaded at Trevelgue because she wouldn’t renounce her faith. Killed near Ruthvoes (blood red bank). A spring of water appeared. Traces remain of the well and chapel.
There is her well at Ruthvoes. She was beheaded here. There are 4 crosses in St Columb Major. 2 in the churchyard, one Black Cross and another at Black Rock. In St Columb Minor she drove evil spirits away. The Celtic missionaries replaced pagan magic with Christian worship and a wooden sanctuary. In Celtic times it belonged to the monks of St Petroc in Bodmin.
Constantine Bay nr Padstow
He was a Cornish king who became a Christian. His chapel and well are at Trevose golf club, hidden among the greens. He was converted by Petroc and became a monk in Ireland.
CURY (Corentin, Corantyn, Corentinus
Cury on the Lizard Peninsula
Cury died in 490AD and was the first Bishop of Quimper in France (Cornouaille). He was a hermit living by a stream. He had a miraculous fish. He took a slice each day and the fish grew back.
St Cyor’s well, Luxulyan a sacred well Christianised by Celtic saints
DERWE: Irish female
One of the Irish martyrs.
Her chapel at Menaderve is on the site of the murder.
ENDELIENTA (Endellion) Welsh female
St Endellion nr Wadebridge
Brychan’s daughter. She was an evangelist and had two wells. 5th century
Companion to Breaca. Landed at Hayle and gives the name to Porthleven.
ERTH: Irish male
He lived 414-524AD. He was converted and baptised by Patrick and was courtier to the King of Laoghaire (Ireland). He was converted as Patrick arrived at court.
St Eval church is between landing sites on the north Cornish coast of the Irish and Welsh Celtic missionary expeditions. It’s not known who he is, possibly Efelwy 620 who was a Bishop confessor or Ethelbert II 749.
A virgin who had her cell by the shore at Phillack. Gwinear met her when she arrived in Cornwall.
FIMBARRUS (Finnbarr, or Barry): Fowey
1: Finnbarr, Irish abbot from Cork 606.
He loved the solitude of hills and lapping water under high crags. Miracles: a visitor asked for proof of God. They were sitting under hazel trees. Immediately the catkins turned to nuts and fell at their feet. Another time Jesus lifted Finnbarr by the right hand to see the glory of heaven. From then on, his hand blazed with light and he had to wear gloves. He travelled to the Outer Hebrides and founded a monastic centre on Barra.
2: Barry son of Brychan and uncle to Cadoc
He was brother of Breaca, Euny, Erc and his Ia.
Patrick converted his father Clito. Gwinear is a hermit in Brittany. He returns to Ireland and joins a missionary trip to Cornwall. He could strike rock and water emerged. He restored a cow to life. Beheaded by warlord King Teudar. He picked up his head and carried it away to where his church is today. A tree grew at the execution site. Anselm a Breton monk wrote a history of Gwinear. It’s the only full report of a Cornish saint. He moved in miracles
GERMANUS: French male
St Germans, east Cornwall
He was the Bishop of Auxerie in France, 418AD. He came to Britain to argue against the teachings of Pelagius. On his second visit he was attacked by pagan raiders. His defenders shouted Alleluia loudly and the attackers ran away. He taught Patrick and Illtud. He founded a church and monastery at St Germans, known as Cornwall’s cathedral.
GERMOE: Irish male
Germoe village named after him. Inland five miles from Helston.
He came over from Ireland with his sister BREACA and others in 460AD. They landed near Hayle but were attacked by local warlord Teudar. Germoe escaped up the River Hayle and took refuge on Tregonning Hill, a Celtic settlement, 4 miles west of Helston overlooking Mounts Bay.
GERAINT: (Gerren, Gevent, Gerran): Dumnonia
He was King of Dumnonia (which was Cornwall and included parts of Devon) in early 8th century. He still observed the Celtic dates for Easter and not the catholic
Langurthowe (holy place of Goron: in Fowey)
He first established a hermitage cell at Bodmin but when Petroc arrived he moved to make place for him and went to Fowey. He had a hermitage in the valley by the stream above Fowey church. It was a sheltered inlet on the hills. He disappeared when Fimbarus arrived. Langurthowe was a town predating Fowey. He is also associated with Gorran Haven.
GUDWAL: French male
A noble monk in Brittany. He lived a desolate life on an island in the sea of Etel where he had a monastery. Gudwal’s well was used as an oracle to discern if cattle or goods were lost or stolen and to get news of absent friends. If people were ok the water bubbled. If sick the water discoloured. If dead the water remained still.
Her father was a leper living in the St Michael’s chapel on Roche Rock. She tended her sick father.
GWITHIAN (Gothian) Irish
Irish missionaries, 700+ and 7 bishops, male and female landed at Hayle and travelled inland to Connor Downs. They were killed by King Teudar (possibly a Christian king who mistook them as aggressors). Many raiding tyrants had come across the Irish sea. Gwithian church is on the site of the martyrdom. There’s a holy well. Companions were Gwinear, Breaca, Elwyn, Piala, Sinnins, Grevenna, Crowan, Uny I don’t know if these were killed too.
HOLYWELL Nr CRANTOCK
There is a holy well and fishponds full of water which had healing properties. There is another well in a cave in Holywell Bay which is accessible at low water. It’s not clear which saint this is associated with.
IA: Irish female
St Ives (formerly known as Porth Ia)
Troon has a church and well dedicated to Ia.
There is a well at Venton Ia nr Porthmear Beach (St Ives)
She came over from Ireland on a leaf (coracle?) and settled on the mouth of the River Hayle where St Ives is. She was of noble birth, born in 430AD. Converted by Patrick and a disciple of Finnbarr. Legend goes that she missed the boat for an expedition to Cornwall but wept so much an ivy leaf grew big enough to bring her over where she settled inland. A friendly King, Dinan, built a church for her. She established her cell there at St Ives.
She led a mixed community of male and female and was welsh or irish.
About 400AD. He was taught by Germanus along with Patrick and founded a monastery at Llantwit Major. A church remains today on the site. He’s associated also with Samson, and Dubricius.
ISSEY: (Itha, Ida) Welsh female
She founded a church between Wadebridge and Padstow at St Issey. She was baptised with the name Dairdre, which means an insatiable desire for the living water of Heavenly truth. She was known for her tact, perception, broadmindedness, miracles, and gift of prophecy. She wrote a song to baby Jesus. She was prioress to nuns in Limerick and foster mother to Irish Brendan. She said there are 3 things pleasing to God: 1: resignation to the Divine will 2: simplicity 3: large heartedness and 3 things most hateful to God: 1: churlishness, 2: love of evil, greed or gain.
St Just-in-Penwith nr Land’s End
They had a reputation for being an aggressive rival with St Keverne
An aggressive rival with Just
KEYNE: welsh, female
Lived on St Michael’s Mount
Daughter of Brychan
She was a pious virgin and was born 490AD. She came to Cornwall with many of her siblings such as Kew and Docco.
Lammana Chapel is between West Looe and Talland.
There’s a chapel on the island previously known at Lammana island, now called Looe Island and this is Celtic. There’s another on the land opposite it. Not much known except there was a Celtic community there. There is a legend that Joseph of Arimathea brought Jesus to Cornwall whilst on a tin expedition and put him down on the beach furthest from shore
St Levan nr Land’s End
Levan had been fishing and was resting on a rock near the church. Before he died, he split the rock with his fist and prophesied that if a packhorse with panniers could go through the split the world would end.
Not much is known about him but if you baptised in his well you could be saved from hanging. There are 3 crosses in the churchyard. There used to be a medieval pilgrimage route from Ludgvan to St Michael’s Mount. It’s known there were still wolves in the area, and they did kill children.
MAWES: Irish male
St Mawes on the Roseland
He was the 10th son of an Irish king and is revered in Brittany. Legend has it that a noisy seal was disturbing him. He threw a large rock at the seal but missed it. The rock fell and wedged on top of Black Rocks in the harbour at St Mawes. His stone chair is still preserved in the wall of a house in St Mawes.
MAWGAN Welsh male
St Mawgan nr Newquay
A Welsh bishop and associate of Cadoc and Breock. He founded a monastery at St Mawgan and a holy well which is still there inside the lych-gate of the church. He preached here and baptised people. There are 4 Celtic crosses in the churchyard.
MERRYN (Morwenna) Welsh male
St Merryn, Harlyn Bay
He was a 6th century nobleman who became a missionary priest. He studied at Bangor in Wales and then moved to Brittany. He is associated with Cadoc and had a chapel and holy well near Harlyn Bay. Cadoc was thirsty after a pilgrimage to St Michael’s Mount to visit Keyne (his aunt) and he struck the ground. A spring came up and it was known to cure intestinal worms.
St Michael’s Mount
In the year 495AD fishermen in Mount’s Bay had a vision of Archangel Michael. He told them to build a sacred place/space and he would save them from danger. This was the beginning of the building on St Michael’s Mount. Pilgrimage routes were established overland: St Ives/Carbis Bay overland to Ludgvan, Crowlas, Gallon and then Marazion and St Michael’s Mount. St Michael’s Mount is believed to be part of the lost Kingdom of Lynonesse. It was originally surrounded by forest not sea. St Michael is depicted as killing a dragon. St Keyne one of Brychan’s daughters lived on St Michael’s Mount.
MINVER: Welsh female
She was a daughter of Brychan and had a hermitage, chapel and well at Tredizzick. The devil attacked her while combing her hair, so she threw the comb at him and he ran away.
NECTAN welsh male
St Nectan’s glen
The first born of Brychan. He was inspired by the Egyptian desert father hermit St Anthony. When Nectan was martyred he picked up his head and walked to a spring. One of his murderers buried him having witnessed the martyrdom and miracle. All Brychan’s children met at Nectan’s hermitage at Hartland, Devon yearly. It’s thought he also spent time at St Nectan’s glen in Cornwall having a hermitage above the waterfall. In 937AD on the eve of the battle of Brunanburh he healed a young man with plague, appearing to him in a vision, and laying hands on his afflicted body. Miracles happened at the place of his martyrdom.
St Neot near Bodmin Moor
He was a dwarf who was only 15” tall. He would hold his devotions up to his neck in water and moved in miracles especially on animals and birds.
NIVET: Welsh female
There are 10 Celtic crosses in the parish, and she is a daughter of Brychan
PETROC: Welsh male
Little Petherick nr Padstow
Padstow on north coast of Cornwall
Bosvenegh or Bothmena
Treravel Farm on Bodmin Moor
The locals wouldn’t give him water, so he tapped the ground and a spring opened up. The locals were converted. He was born in southern Wales in the 6th century to a prince and was Cadoc’s uncle. He ministered to Britons in Devon, Somerset, and Cornwall.
He was a strict ascetic eating only barley bread and drinking water. He also had pulses on Sunday. He believed in hard labour and acts of penitence. He would stand for hours up to his neck in water at Little Petherick reciting the Psalms. He didn’t use oxen but the monks themselves ploughed the land. He was initially vegetarian but abandoned this later.
He believed in spiritual warfare and the power of evil. He rid the land of an enormous serpent which was kept to punish criminals by the late King Teudar.
He had an affinity with animals. He was educated for 20 years at an Irish monastery. Then he set out with companions in coracles to evangelise. His companions were
Dagan (Dachan, Dechana ) female
They landed at Trebetherick nr Polzeath in 518AD and seemed to take over Gwethinoc’s mission in Padstow and the name changed from Lanwethinoc to Petroc’s Stow. He established a monastic cell, school, library, infirmary, and farm around the present church in Padstow. He also had an oratory and mill at Nanceventon nr Little Petherick Church. He had a third settlement which was a small hermitage at Bosvenegh or Bothmena – the dwelling or abode of the monks. He was building on the mission of Sampson and Goran and it became Bodmin. Later he travelled to India and spent 7 years on an island fed by a single fish. He also tamed a wolf at Blable which means wolf pit, farm. He removed a splinter from a dragon’s eye and converted King Constantine when a deer lay down at Petroc’s feet escaping the hunt. He had an isolated hermitage on Bodmin Moor where he died on 4th June 564 at Treravel Farm. The spring on the farm is said to cure sore eyes and internal illnesses.
PIALA: Irish female
Sister of Gwinear and daughter of Clito. She landed with other missionaries and was martyred by King Teudar. She was a virgin. Her holy well is at Phillack church
PIRAN (Kieran) Irish male
Piran is the patron saint of Cornwall. His flag is the Cornish flag, a white cross on a black background. Legend has it he discovered tin by heating his black hearthstone which had tin bearing ore. The tin melted out and rose to the surface forming a cross, hence the white on black. He is a famous Irish saint and founded the monastery at Clonmacnois. He is buried at Perranzabulo with Martin the Abbot who was also Irish. His body was exhumed for relics and used in reliquaries.
Legend has it that he was tied to a millstone in Ireland and rolled off a cliff edge into a stormy sea. Immediately the sea became calm and the millstone floated him across the sea to land at Perranzabuloe. He showed an affinity to animals and it’s said his first converts were animals, a badger, fox, wolf, doe, and bear. His original community were jealous of his powers of healing and miracles. He arrived at Perran Beach, had a chapel at Penhale Sands and died in 206AD. A very tall skeleton was discovered in the church.
A Celtic Christian in Cornwall and Brittany
ST SAVIOUR’S CHAPEL, POLRUAN
Polruan on Fowey
There was a Celtic chapel high on the cliff top. The ruins are still visible. A monk lived here and lit a light to steer ships into safe harbour. It was also a watchtower for enemy attackers.
Lansallos nr Fowey
He was born in 460AD and was a king who succeeded his cousin Mark as King of Cerniw in the early 6th century. He was the younger son of King Erbin of Dumnonia and married WENNA daughter of the Irish price who had settled at Caer-Goch nr Mynyw, Wales. Their son was CYBI. Salom founded the church at Lansallos, nr Fowey. The present church is on the original Celtic church and there is a Celtic cross and font.
SAMPSON (Samson): Welsh male
Samson travelled all the Celtic lands of Wales, Ireland, Cornwall, Scilly, and Brittany. His parents were Amon and Anna. Fearing barrenness, they visit LIBRARIUS a wise man. He tells Amon to give a rod of silver which equalled the length of his wife to the church. He does so. That night an angel appears to Anna and tells her she will have a son and to name him Sampson. ‘He shall be 7 times brighter than the silver your husband has given for thee to God’. At 5 years old, Samson wants to be educated at the abbey at Llantwit Major. The abbot, ILLTYD prophesies over him that he will be ‘the illustrious priest of all the Britons, a founder of churches. His first miracle: a monastic brother is bitten by a snake which darts out of a blackberry bush. He is dying. Sampson prays for three hours over his body, then blesses it with water and oil. The brother recovers. His ordination is by Father Dubricius at the monastery. A dove hovers over him and sits on his right shoulder. Jealous monks try to poison him and actually kill the monastery cat, but Sampson is warned in a DREAM. He blesses the cup, drinks it and lives.
He travels with his father and they meet a fire spitting serpent which winds itself around his staff, but it doesn’t dare raise its head. Samson sings the Psalm, ‘the Lord is my light and my salvation’ and finally commands the serpent, ‘in the name of Jesus Christ to die in our presence this very hour’. The serpent stands on its tail, spits out its venom and dies.
Another time, Samson travels home to see his dying father. He and his companion hear vile shrieks. His companion flees. Samson finds him mortally wounded with a trident wielded by a shaggy haired sorceress in red. He commands her ‘thou do no harm no longer’. And he releases her from the grip of the devil at which point she dies. He heals his companion by prayer.
He returns to his monastery and is appointed Cellarer, the person in charge of the cellars. The other monks are jealous, and the previous Cellarer empties all the honey jars and blames Samson. Father Dubricius is called in to investigate. When he arrives all the jars are refilled and overflowing with honey which is vital for the monastery to survive.
When Samson is in Ireland, he gives sight to the blind, cleanses lepers and casts out devils. When he is leaving Ireland, he is delayed as he stops to cure the local Abbot. The ship refuses to wait for him. However, when he goes to the port next morning the boat is there, forced back by unfavourable winds.
Samson is called back to the Llantwit Major monastery. He dreams that he is with the Apostles, Peter, James, and John. Through this he knows he is to become Bishop. Next morning Father Dubricious consecrates him as Bishop and Abbot.
Samson lands in Padstow by coracle. He establishes monasteries at Padstow, Southill and Golant. These are small settlements. He travels the Saints Way and goes to the Isles of Scilly where there is an island named after him. He is also associated with St Kew and Docco monastery.
GOLANT: there’s a serpent in a cave by the river. It terrifies the inhabitants. Sampson wraps his linen girdle around its neck and flings it into the river commanding it to live no longer. His well is still visible by the church, as is the cave where the serpent lived. He founded a community on this site. One day he feels faint from fasting and prays for water for comfort. He taps his staff on the rock and water flows. He leaves Cornwall and travels to Brittany where he is given a strip of land. He founds a monastery and the town of Dol grows up around it and develops into a cathedral. He was the first Archbishop of Dol and is a founding saint of Brittany.
SULIAN Welsh male
Luxulyan: the holy place of Sulian. The churchyard is a circular Celtic settlement. It could also be a pre-Christian burial site. He was a Welsh king, the son of Brucemail, King of Powys. He had a renowned lineage and had violent parental opposition to being a monk. He travelled with Samson and other Welsh monks through Cornwall to Brittany (Lossulian).
There was a Celtic Holy place on the brow of a hill where the medieval church now sits. It’s not clear which saint is associated with Talland.
UNY: Irish, male
Brother of Ia, Anta and Erth. He landed at Gwinear and converted the chief who ruled Carn Brea. He is the saint of Lelant, Redruth, Crowan, Sancreed. Sancreed means the healing well of St Uny. The well was thought to cure ‘dry humours and heal wounds and sores.’ There is another well at Venton Uny. He was martyred at the battle of Merthy Uny. (Marooney)
WENNA Cornish female
St Wenn 6 miles west of Bodmin
She was born in 475 AD and died 18th October 544AD. She was the daughter of Lord Cynyr of Ceinfarfog of Caer Goch, Wales and wife of King Salom of Cernw (Cornwall). She founded churches at St Wenn and Morval and died in Cornwall.
WOLVELA: Breton or Welsh, female
She lived in the 6th century. Bosulval named after her (the house of Wolvella). It could be the place of her nunnery or hermitage.
WYLLOW: (Vylloc) Irish male
He came to Fowey and on arrival at Fowey was guided by a fish across the estuary to PONT PILL and established a hermitage there. St Wyllow means the valley of the church. The original site was at the head of the creek half a mile from the present site of the church. He was beheaded by Melyn ys Kyrenrede. He picked up his own head and carried it to the site of the present church at Lanteglos. He lived in the 6th century.
WINWALOE: Brittany male
Gunwalloe on the Lizard
Towednack in west Penwith
St Winnolls, nr St Germans
He trained under the Irish monk BUDOC in Brittany and places are named after him. Legends: he was vegetarian and never sat down in church. He was a healer. He healed his friend’s leg which was damaged in a childhood game. His sister’s eye was pecked out by a goose. He retrieved the eye from within the goose and restored his sister’s sight. He’s from either a Cornish or Welsh family who moved to Brittany. He slept on a hard bed with a stone pillow and ate only barley bread and cheese.
Lanzota valley nr Withiel