The Cornish Saints

Cornwall was Christianized by a raft (and I’m using that word metaphorically, but you’ll see why it comes to mind) of saints that most people outside of Cornwall never heard of. I’m guessing the best known is St. Piran—Cornwall’s patron saint and a favorite saint of Cornish tin miners. He sailed over from Ireland on a millstone. (“As you do,” as people here say in just that kind of situation.) He’s said to have liked his drink, and to have died of it. Memory insists that he got drunk and fell down a well, but memory—or the version of it that lives in my head—isn’t reliable and may be making that up. So don’t trust me on that. None of the web sites I’ve checked mention it, although they do mention a lot of drinking on St. Piran’s Day.

Whether or not he was a heavy drinker, the saints in those days weren’t prissy. St. Brychan came from Wales with three wives, twelve sons, and twelve daughters, many of whom became saints themselves. I’ve never heard how they got here—probably a VW beetle—but transportation seems to have been a big thing among them: St. Ia floated over on a leaf and St. Budoc floated over in a barrel.

later may 2015 001

33 thoughts on “ The Cornish Saints

  1. The Cornish saints were also, it is said, pre-Christian local deities ‘rebranded’ by the canny earlychurch who recognised people would go on worshiping at the sacred spring/holy well or standing stone & should be encouraged to do so in a Christian way. There are holy wels up and down the county that are still decorated with scrats of cloth tied to the surrounding bushes. Some of this may be New Age stuff or early c20th neo-Paganism but I think it has a much longer tradition.

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  2. I once floated a short way down a flooded street in a 1959 VW bug so I can totally imagine those saints all piling in for the ride. For even more entertainment with that old bug, we used to see how many kids we could cram into the thing at lunchtime in high school. Such crushing fun.

    Scat–another word with a different meaning here, as in “I saw some mountain lion scat on the trail today.” I think our “scat” is both singular and plural.

    I saw one of those well shrine places close to the coastal path near St David’s in Wales. Very well-tended but very curious to my non-religious self. I felt a great sense of respect for all those who have kept it spic-n-span over the centuries. Not something you see in California.

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    • That must’ve been an, um, interesting ride. But from Wales, they should’ve been able to drive. If the roads were good enough then to accommodate a small car. That could’ve been a problem, couldn’t it?

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  3. A new really good blog to follow thank God. It was the Cornish Saints that did it for me. They certainly got around those saints didn’t they. I’m seriously thinking of becoming a saint myself. I wonder if there’s a patron saint of blogging. I could go for that. Oh …. and I’d want a shrine.Nothing too fancy.
    Something near the pub in Tintagel would be nice. Anyway, good to be following you.(in a nice way I hasten to add!)
    All the best. Kris
    http://www.awritersden.wordpress.com
    http://www.the1951club.org

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    • Happy to have you with us. And to have the patron saint of blogging follow me (you notice I’ve accepted that you are?)–what more could I hope for? I’m not sure about the location. Pub. Tintagel. Gets a bit busy in the summer. Did you want a quiet sort of shrine? If not, there’s a pub by the big parking lot that I have the impression gets a bit raucous, and a very small park across the streets. Near the toilets, in fact. All the conveniences a saint could want.

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  4. having just found your blog thro the meet & greet blog – you lied – you said you were a brit – well – I spose you are – but well but – have no idea who you are – very scant biog – but you do have a nice sense of humour – I assume that you based your name on Bryce’s “notes from a small country?”

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    • I said I was a Brit??? I’ll have to go back and see what I wrote. It’s not something I go around saying when I’m in my right mind (which I thought was all the time but I could be wrong about that). I have dual citizenship, but at the core of who I am, I’m American. That’s where I was born and raised and lived most of my life. That’s the culture I carry inside me.

      The title I wanted for the blog, sadly, had already been taken: A Life in the U.K. So Notes was the next best thing–influenced, I suppose, by Bryson, although I can’t say he was at the forefront of my mind.

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  5. I was thinking of you and Cornwall the other day. We met a young Bulgarian couple recently (who have been our neighbours for six months, can you believe it, but that’s another story I will soon tell). Apparently, they lived in Cornwall and say it IS the most beautiful place, as you say. They weren’t too impressed by the weather there though.

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