Female saints in Cornwall

Following up on this research on saints in Cornwall from Sarah Fish, “The female saints of Cornwall“.  The names have been organized by both alphabetical and calendar lists, H/T Dysklver:

As Fish notes, most saints came from somewhere else, having floated in on a leaf, or migrated with some group of pilgrims or some such. Little is known about many of the saints, who are sometimes only associated with a particular church or sacred well.

Also note that Wikipedia has an article “List of Cornish saints“, which is not broken down by gender, but undoubtedly some of the listed saints are female. There is probably a way to pull the information out of WikiData using a Sparkl query, assuming they are labeled correctly, but I don’t have time to figure it out. The list also exists in French, but oddly enough, not in Cornish. Perhaps one of Dysk’s sisters will be on it.

Sources:

  • Staff at St Anne’s (stub), Whitstone (multiple maintneance tags), Advent, and Morwenstowand
  • Staff of St Austell library (the article for St Austell tells us the library building is a notable landmark, but not even a paragraph about it, much less a sentence with the address and hours – here’s your source for that…the official website)
  • Staff of the Cornish Studies Library, Redruth, “Cornwall’s largest library of Cornish printed and published archival material.[citation needed]” …(and what a lot of tags on that one, surely their move is finished by now) Do those people know about 1lib1ref?????

Unhelpful texts

  • The Life of St Breage (lost manuscript, 5th-6th c)
  • Breton Life of St Non (which places the saint in Brittony rather than Cornwall)
  • St Samson of Dol, a male saint, does not talk about his sainted mother
  • Ordinalia, no info on female saints

Secondary literature on saints

  • Nicholas Orme on the saints of Cornwall (eBook $151.99, no snippet view, however this does occasionally yield info on search) (Amazon preview however has a huge amount of material reproduced, including bibliography – click on image of cover)
  • Oliver Padel on Cornish place names: Popular Dictionary of Cornish Place-Names, 1988. [google books, no snippet]
  • Nicholas Roscorrock (red link) and his work on church dedications in Cornwall in the sixteenth century (Nicholas Roscarrock’s Lives of the saints : Cornwall and Devon / edited by Nicholas Orme, 1992 based on ms at Cambridge University Library Manuscript Add. 3041) (limited view at Hathitrust).
  • Historians and folklorist such as the Reverend Gilbert Doble… “St Gerent – a Cornish saint, by the Rev. Canon Gilbert H. Doble, M.A.” 1938. PDF) (ahhh, look at them all).
  • Historian and folklorist Robert Hunt, “Popular Romances of the West of England collected and edited by Robert Hunt” [1903, 3rd edition] , text. (volume one is giants, mermaids, etc, volume two is saints, holy wells, legends of Arthur etc.) On Gutenberg; on Internet Archive.)

Saints by location

This is how Fish originally categorizes the saints, having backed off of a straight list form.

Far west of Cornwall

  • St Ia of St Ives – stained glass windows in the church, statue is displayed above the altar in the Lady Chapel, displayed in church banner (?).
  • St Neulina of St Newlyn East
  • Minster
  • St Austell and Truro – more populated, less info

Far east near Devon

  • St Anne’s at Whitstone – more dedicated to saint, less populated areas

Other

  • St Keyne’s Well near Looe
  • Virgin martyrs- links with other Celtic countries, namely Ireland, Wales and Brittany.

Alphabetical list

Wikipedia articles are linked, where they exist.

  • Adwenna, Adwen – daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog – place name “Advent”, just outside the hamlet of Tresinney near Camelford, on the edge of Bodmin Moor. Possibly same as Dwywnen or Lan (or La) Dwynwen; January 25
  • Agnes, virgin and martyr, fourth-century Roman martyr, killed when she refused to marry the governor’s son, local legend says she fled Rome for Cornwall, performed miracles such as turning the Devil into a stone.
  • Anne – holy mother (of St Samson of Dol), originally from Wales, moved on to Brittany, St Anne at Whitstone in north Cornwall, the first dedication of this church to her was in 1883; previously the dedication had been to St Nicholas, holy well on church grounds carved face on back of well “an early Celtic water shrine to the pagan water spirit, Annas”. Saint Anna verch Gwerthefyr gan Oxenhall, princess.
  • Anta, Lelant church (to the east of St Ives), also the patron of Carbis Bay church in the next village to Lelant
  • Breage (or Breaca ) – Irish origin, traveled with St Germoe, who was said to be her foster son, possibly the sister of St Levan, although this might have been St Manacca; disciple of Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid, June 4
  • Brevita at Lanlivery; Brivet (Bryvyth), Briuete de Lannyvery, Breutte, Breute, Brevita, Briueta (Latin); first Sunday after the first Tuesday in May
  • Bride, virgin (from “Perpetual Calendar of Cornish Saints”)
  • Brychan Brycheiniog, just for reference was a king who had a dozen or so daughters who became saints, high-ranking Welsh noblewomen, and whose churches tend to be close together
  • Buryan (St. Buriana, Beriana, Berion)(Buriana, Beriona, Burian), parish of St. Buryan near Land’s End, cured King Gerent’s son of paralysis.  Feast day May 27 [source] “the nearest Sunday to May 13th” p.121
  • Columb, virgin and martyr, daughter of pagan king who converted and refused to marry a pagan, “a holy well was formed at the spot where her blood landed on the ground.The place where she was martyred is named as Ruthwas, the present-day hamlet of Ruthvoes (Cornish: ‘red bank’).”
  • Columba – virgin martyr, one of the virgins who suffered with St Ursula, or possibly mixed with Columb.
  • Creed, virgin (from “Perpetual Calendar of Cornish Saints”)
  • Crewenna, companion of Breage, patron saint of Crowan church, whose parish adjoins that of Breage and St Breaca “Her anniversary or Feast is still celebrated in the Anglican and Methodist churches on the nearest Sunday to Candlemas Eve (1st February)” Feb 1
  • Crowan (patroness of Crowan, Cornwall) Crevan, Crewen, Crozon (pronounced Craon) on Brittony’s west coast.
  • Derva, virgin (from “Perpetual Calendar of Cornish Saints”)
  • Dominica, virgin (from “Perpetual Calendar of Cornish Saints”)
  • Electa, virgin (from “Perpetual Calendar of Cornish Saints”)
  • Endelienta,  Endelient – miraculous legends – local, daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog…St Endellion feast day April 29
  • Felec, see Piala
  • Gulval, virgin (from “Perpetual Calendar of Cornish Saints”)
  • Ia_of_Persia_(Menologion_of_Basil_II)
    Ia of Persia

    Ia (or St Hya) – mention in Life of St Gwinear, Irish origin, disciple of St. Patrick, sister of St Erth  St. Ercus, and St Euny, male saints, tomb is (was) in St Ives church, holy well, Venton Ia, near Porthmeor beach; February 3 [source] See also Caitlin Green’s comparison with St. Ia of Persia: “St Ia of St Ives: a Byzantine saint in early medieval Cornwall?

  • Issey, virgin, also Filius [source]
  • Kew, virgin , Kigwe, Kywa, patroness of St. Kew or Lanon, St. Kyul, Guic, Ciwke. Feb. 8 [source]
  • Keyne – references to lost Lives, aunt of St Cadog, thought to be a daughter of Brychan, but appears in Welsh lists, Latin Life of St Keyne translated by Doble in 1930; besides “Llangain (‘church of Cain/Keyne’), and the parish of St Keyne itself, St Keyne is also associated with Keynsham in Somerset (where she is said to have turned snakes into stone)” “St Keyne is said to have blessed the waters of the well on her deathbed, then gave them their powers hoping ‘to benefit the world, by giving to woman a chance of being equal to her lord and master’; October 8
  • Keyn, virgin (from “Perpetual Calendar of Cornish Saints”)
  • Ladock, virgin, Ladoca, Patroness of Ladock Jan. 1
  • Ludgvan, Ludewin – see Adwen
  • Mabena, Mabon – daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog, church at St Mabyn; November 18
  • Maker, virgin (from “Perpetual Calendar of Cornish Saints”)
  • Materiana (also Mertherian),  patron of the church in Tintagel and its mother church at Minster, possibly “the Welsh princess Madrun, daughter of King Vortimer of Gwent, who fled to Cornwall after the death of her father”; October 19.
  • Matherian, virgin (Matheriana, Marchai, Patroness of Minster? April 9?) [source p.733]
  • Marwenna, St Marwenne or St Merewenne – daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog, sister of Morwenna, of Marhamchurch, possibly Merwenn, a tenth-century English abbess who lived in Romsey, Hampshire; August 12
  • Menfre or Menefreda, Menefrida, Minver, virgin – daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog, church of St Minver; Tredresick, Cornwall; hermitage, chapel and holy well were at Tredizzick, devil attacked her and she threw a comb at him, father Saint Brychan, feast day July 24, later July 13, some say Nov. 24 [source, p. 734]
  • Morwenna – daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog, sister of Marwenna – miraculous legends – local – place name “Marwenschurch”, parish of Morwenstow, well of St Morwenna is distant and inaccessible,  one of the children of Brechanus in St Nectaines life, possibly Breton saint Moren (of Lamorran) but probably not
  • Non, Nennyd, Naunter- Welsh origin – holy mother (of St David) – place name “Altarnun”, moved on to Brittany, mystery play Buhez Santez Nonn (Life of St Non) Paris 1837, performed on feast day [text on Internet Archive, free ebook]; March 3
  • Neulina (of St Newlyn East) – of Cornish origin, possibly Breton saint Noualen, (Noyale?) commemorated at Pontivy in Brittany.
  • Newlyn,virgin (from “Perpetual Calendar of Cornish Saints”)
  • Phillak, virgin (from “Perpetual Calendar of Cornish Saints”)
  • Piala,  Phiala – virgin martyr – Irish origin – sister of St Gwinear (Fingar) – church at Phillack, near Hayle, where there is also a holy well bearing her name, church also dedicated to a St Felec, possibly St. Felicity, landed in Cornwall, killed by the local chieftain, Dec. 14 [source]
  • Senara, patron of Zennor. Feast day?
  • Sidwell, virgin (from “Perpetual Calendar of Cornish Saints”)
  • Sitha, virgin; Sytha, Syth, chapel of St. Sitha at Bradford, possibly St. Osith Oct. 7
  • Stythyan, virgin (from “Perpetual Calendar of Cornish Saints”)
  • Tedda, Tetha, Eatha- daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog, church in St Teath near St Adwen at Advent. Originally May 1, then Whit Tuesday, the day after Pentecost Monday. Fairs on the last Tuesday in February and first Tuesday in July [source]
  • Wenna, Sancte Wenne – daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog, dedicated to her: church at St Wenn, in mid Cornwall, and the church in Morval, near Looe on the south coast, also a chapel in St Kew parish. Possibly St Gwen or Guen, who appears in the Welsh genealogies as a daughter of Brychan, [see also two St. Wennas];  (c.472 – 18 October 544) was the daughter of Lord Cynyr Ceinfarfog of Caer Goch, the wife of King Salom of Cerniw (Cornwall) and the mother of Saint Cybi. She founded the churches of Sant Wenn and Saint Morval in Cerniw. She died in Cerniw.
  • Wendron, virgin (from “Perpetual Calendar of Cornish Saints”)

List from “Perpetual Calendar of Cornish Saints”

Perpetual Calendar of Cornish Saints, with selections of poetry and prose relating to Cornwall, Sarah L. Enys, Published by A.W. Jordan, 1923

Virgins (Cornish ‘Gwerhes’):  Ladock, Sitha, Bride, Crowan, Ia, Kew, Maker, Derva, Matherian, Newlyn, Dominica, Buryan, Breag, Morwenna, Stythyan, Electa, Sidwell, Keyn, Wendron, Gulval, Issey, Minver, Creed, Phillak.

Virgin and martyr (Cornish: ‘Gwerhes ha Merther’): Agnes and Columb

Saints by date

Jan. 1 – Ladock [source p.733]

January 25 – Dwywnen (see Adwen) (also the conversion of St. Paul), nearest Sunday to January 25 – Ludgvan (see Adwen)

Feb 1 – St. Crewenna

st IaFebruary 3 – St. Ia, celebration is on the nearest Monday, parade to Venton Ia, to bless the silver hurling ball (?) (children have an ongoing game at the festival, the ball is carried to the holy well at the beginning for blessing)

Feb. 8 – St. Kew

March 3 – St. Non of Wales (Nonna, Nonnita) [source]

April 29 – Endelienta [source]

May (early) – St Brevita at Lanlivery, local feast week begins with blessing and dressing the holy well; first Sunday after the first Tuesday in May (1870 and 1887) [source]

May 27 – St. Buryan [source]

June 4 – Breaca of Cornwall, (also known as Breague, Branca, Banka) 5th-6th century. Saint Breaca was a disciple of Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid. [source] Formerly May 1 [source]

July 24 – Saint Menefrida, Tredresick, Cornwall; father Saint Brychan [source] ?sources differ

August 12 – the feast day of St Marwenna, the Marhamchurch Revel is on the closest Monday

Oct. 7 – St. Sitha [source, p. 752]

October 8 – St. Keyne, Cain, Cenau, Cenedion, Ceinwen, keane, Keyna, Kayane, from between Looe and Lskeard, a dragon slayer, ritual for upper hand in marriage [source]

October 19 – St. Materiana, Madrun, Madryn, Merthiana, Merhteriana, Marcellinana, daugher of King Vortimer, church of St. Maeriana, Boscastle, the church at Tintagel has her image in stained glass and statue [source]

November 18 – St. Mabyn, Mabena, Mabon daugher of Brychan [source]

Dec. 14 – Piala (Phiala) [source]

More sources

Saints

Green, Caitlin, “St Ia of St Ives: a Byzantine saint in early medieval Cornwall?” The two St. Ias – St. Ia of Cornwall and St. Ia of Persia , archeology, and trade relations between Britian and the Byzantine Empire.

Baring-Gould, S. and Fisher, J. The Lives of the British Saints,  at least 4 volumes, see

Buhez Santez Nonn (Life of St Non) Paris 1837, mystery play performed on St. Non feast day [text on Internet Archive, free ebook]

A Book of Cornwall, by S. Baring-Gould, 1906. https://archive.org/details/bookofcornwall00bari/page/n10

Popular Romances of the West of England, collected and edited by Robert Hunt, 1903. [Gutenberg; Internet Archive.]

Borlase, W., Antiquities, Historical and Monumental, of the County of Cornwall (London: Bowyer and Nichols, 1769), reprinted 1973. [limited view Hathitrust],; Antiquities, Historical and Monumental, of the County of Cornwall: Consisting of Several Essays on the First Inhabitants, Druid-superstition, Customs, and Remains of the Most Remote Antiquity in Britain, and the British Isles, Exemplified and Proved by Monuments Now Extant in Cornwall and the Scilly Islands, with a Vocabulary of the Cornu-British Language, 1769.  [Free eBook ]

The Age of the Saints: A Monograph of Early Christianity in Cornwall, with the Legends of the Cornish Saints : and an Introduction Illustrative of the Ethnology of the District, William Copeland Borlase, 1895. [Free eBook]

Gilbert Doble, series of booklets about saints

  • Saint Gerent (Gerendus, Gerens), Cornish Saints Series, No. 41, 1938.

Further descripton of the series at Library Thing: “The Welsh language Wicipedia includes a warning when using Noble’s work, that he did not believe that women could lead communities or travel regularly, and that the monks who wrote about them were mistaken. This he tried to rectify by turning some female saints into men, and splitting or merging saints that worked close to each other. For example, he suggested that Non was two saints, one the mother of St David and the other a man who travelled and established communities.”

General interest

Cornwall, with maps, diagrams and illustrations, by Baring-Gould, 1910. [Internet Archive]

Henry Jenner, A Handbook of the Cornish Language: Chiefly in Its Latest Stages, with Some Account of Its History and Literature, 1904. [Free ebook]

Cornish saints & sinners by Harris, J. Henry, 1906 [Internet Archive]

Women Saints of Cornwall, Part 1“, Dmitry Lapa, blog post with local photos Saint Breaga, Saint Endelienda, Saint Morwenna

Women Saints of Cornwall. Part 2“, Dmitry Lapa, blog post with local photos, Saint Buriana, Saint Ia (Ives), Saint Keyne

Dictionary of Celtic Saints, Elizabeth Rees, 2012. (gbooks, searchable)

2 thoughts on “Female saints in Cornwall

  1. That is some very interesting scholarship, and I have added the source to the article.
    St. Ia of Persia did make it into a disambig page, and technically she was one of the “9000 martyrs”, which the article for Shapur II almost sort of mentions. and she is listed with the 9000 martyrs in the Eastern Orthodox calendar of saints (including an icon) under in September 11 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics) Here she is also called “Violet”. Also, according to this dictionary of saints canonized by the Roman Catholic Church, it looks like the Roman martyrology may have deleted her 9000 co-martyrs. although they were all 9000 of them still there in 1916 ( p. 232), but for some reason they list her feast day in August.

    I should probably do a separate post about her, if for not other reason but to jog the google algorithms, (the indexing bots don’t seem do stuff that is added later), but looking at the whole Persian martyr thing, its a pretty complex topic and I doubt if I could do it justice. http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/acts-of-the-persian-martyrs Maybe for her feast day 9/11 (in the U.S. pronounced “nine eleven“) depending on my mood.

    If you remember, Ursula also had a lot of co-martyrs, 11,000 or so, much to the delight of both the female religious devotees of the Holy Land, and the church in Cologne that did a brisk business in relics.

    I can suggest a couple of other reasons for the name. People were often named for saints, and still are. Also on taking religious orders often there is a new name as part of the ceremony, not sure how this is decided, perhaps they take the name of a saint. For instance you may remember Thekla the Nun, the 9th century hymnist, was named for Thekla the saint, the legendary companion of St. Paul whose “Life” was written in the 5th century.

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