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.


  • 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


  • 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


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)


Mary Magdalene

Peace be with you. May my peace reside within you. Guard carefully that no one misleads you saying, “Look, he is here,” or “He’s over there,” for the Son of Humanity already exists within you. Follow him, for those who seek him there will find him.  -The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

July 21 is the feast day of Mary Magdalene.

So who was she?

A Jew from the city of Magdala, a fishing town on the Sea of Galilee, which excavations have shown to have had a first century synagogue. Very possibly this was a synagogue where Jesus first presented his teachings. The tradition in this area is that the Jewish men all gather on the Sabbath and say their prayers simultaneously, at their own pace, in a sort of cacophony, and when they have finished anyone can speak to various religious topics.

Beyond that, the scriptures tell us that the Magdalene was present at the crucifixion, the disciples all having run away in fear of the authorities, and also at the resurrection, being the first to see the resurrected Jesus at the tomb. So she would have had the authority to receive the body and prepare it for burial.

The three Marys at the tomb of Christ.

It takes a little scholarship to fill in the rest of the story.

Mary of Magdala may have been wealthy and a patroness of Jesus, one of several such women who traveled with the disciples, and who had been cured of afflictions. According to the eighth chapter of Luke:

Now after this [Jesus] made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God. With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments: Mary surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who provided for them out of their own resources.

The “seven demons” applied to Mary Magdalene may not refer to demonic possession but merely indicate a severe ailment.

Mary and the resurrected Jesus. He is carrying a hoe and at first she mistakes him for the gardener.

Early texts of the early Christian era show her as an “apostle,” and in the years after Jesus’ death her status may have rivaled Peter, because of the confidence Jesus himself had invested in her, also as the receiver of the commission in the gospel of Mark to  “go, tell his disciples and Peter”.

But over the centuries, the role of Mary Magdalene became blurred. She was conflated with other Marys of the Bible, other anointings, other weeping women. Jesus had treated women with respect, as equals in his circle, and even in the letters of St. Paul – who let’s face it, does not have a very good reputation among women today – named women as full partners in the Christian movement. But women started disappearing from the church’s inner circle, and the religious communities that had accepted Mary as an authority became marginalized.  It took 600 years, but eventually Mary Magdalene was reduced to the status of repentant prostitute

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

Then, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene was discovered in 1896, by a German diplomat in a Cairo market. The first German scholarly edition appeared in 1955, and an English version some twenty years later.

The manuscript itself is a fifth-century Coptic (i.e., Egyptian) version of what had almost certainly been an earlier Greek or even Syrian text.1 In 1917 and then in 1938 two Greek fragments dating from the third century were indeed discovered, confirming the antiquity of the original text and the esteem in which it was held by the earliest Christian communities (only important manuscripts are recopied)…. Karen King assigns the original text to the first half of the second century. If her argument is correct, this would place the Gospel of Mary Magdalene within the earliest strata of Christian writings, roughly contemporaneous with the Gospel of John.

The content of the manuscript follows a common form at the time, of a philosophical/religious dialogue embedded in a story, in this case a conversation between Mary Magdalene and the disciples, who were grieving for Jesus after his death.

Levi answered and said to Peter, “Peter, you have always been hot – tempered. Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries. But if the Saviour made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Saviour knows her very well. That is why He loved her more than us. Rather let us be ashamed and put on the perfect man and acquire him for ourselves as He commanded us, and preach the gospel, not laying down any other rule or other law beyond what the Saviour said.” … and they began to go forth [to] proclaim and to preach.


Saint Veronica Giuliani

st-veronica-giuliani 5July 9 is the feast day of St Veronica Giuliani.  By now we shouldn’t have to review the usual path to sainthood: a parental attempt to arrange a marriage, followed by decampment to a nunnery.  In addition, visions were one of the spiritual gifts allowed to women, so there were more than a few saintly nuns with visions.  Often they were recorded by their male confessors, or we would not know about them at all.

St. Veronica did all of that, and more.  From a very early age she wanted to do everything the Christ child did, and eventually received the stigmata, and embraced constant suffering as a way to be God, or more accurately, the Trinity.

Once she started having visions, she was instructed (by male priests) to keep a diary, which she did, some thousands of pages worth.  No doubt they wanted to keep an eye on her, but without getting too closely involved.

But try to find any of it, even in her native Italian language, and you very quickly run up against a brick wall.  Her Wikipedia article is no help of course. At one point they simply scraped an out-of-copyright Catholic encyclopedia for the information they do have, which is pretty much a hagiography, another century’s version of the sound bite.

The name of the book is available, it is:

Un tesoro nascosto, ossia diario di S. Veronica Giuliana religiosa Cappuccina in Città di Castello, scritto da lei medesima, publicato e corredato di note.

We even have information about one of the volumes:

Volume IV (1 Maggio 1697-31 decembre 1699). Prato, tip. Giachetti, Figlio e C. 1899, in-8, pp. 912.

There is an interesting commentary on the mysticism here if you can get past the Italian,

Her body washed away in a flood some time ago, and now only the bones are kept in a wax statue of some kind, but her heart is incorrupt, and is still at the Monastero di Santa Veronica Giuliani in Città di Castello, Umbria. The remains of Blessed Lucrezia Elena Cevoli or “Florida Cevoli“, who died in 1767 are also preserved here, on the left side of the altar.  Florida served as vicar under Giuliani, and became the new abbess on her death.  The wiki tells us “she continued the work started under her predecessor and did not use strong and harsh impositions to do so. Instead she did so with a degree of both firmness and gentleness which was a stark contrast to that of Giuliani.” Florida and several others later founded a monastery in Mercatello sul Metauro, Giuliani’s birth place.

From an obscure website we find the following: stveronicagiuliani.org is supposed to be the definitive source of information, however the website is gone, not even in the Wayback Machine.  But there does seem to be a redirect, to the .com version of the webiste…which is in Arabic.  This then is the Lebanese group, that adopeted this saint in more recent times, certain that it spoke to them directly.  http://www.stveronicagiuliani.com/eng/lifeMessage.html And from these we can find a sort of landing page. There are lots of pictures, if you go deep enough.

From the internet archive we find the following, –  book, I guess.

“The Life of S. Veronica Giuliani was written by Felippo Maria Salvatori and published: Rome : Lazzarini, 1803. The translation of the Spiritual life of the Blessed Battista Varani is from the French version published: Clermont-Ferrand, 1840. It is founded upon the collection of her revelations, written in Italian by Matthew Pascucci and rendered into Latin by the Bollandists in the Acta Sanctorum for the 31st of May.”  (The Blessed Battista Varani would appear to be Camilla Battista da Varano (9 April 1458 – 31 May 1524), a different Poor Clares nun.)

This is extraordinary.  It seems to be a sort of scan, but not the usual one from Internet Archive–it seems to be a scan that includes the scanning machine itself, and without the usual thumbnails, essential for navigation. There are also some very clear images, like  here, but it takes forever to load.

The PDF is a little easier to read, and includes large portions of her diary in translation:

“We find from the memorials in our possession, that it was on the 4th of April in the year 1694, that Jesus appeared to her with the insignia of His Passion, and presented her with His crown of thorns. The following is her own account, written under obedience :- ” On the night of the 4th of April, while I was in prayer, I became rapt in recollection, and beheld an intellectual vision, in which our Lord appeared to me with a large crown of thorns on His Head. Immediately I began to say to Him : ‘ My divine Spouse, give me those thorns: they are fit for me, and not for Thee, Who art my highest good.’ Meanwhile, I felt that our Lord answered me thus: ‘ I am come to crown thee now, My beloved;’ and, in an instant, He took off His crown, and placed it on my head. The pain which it caused was so severe, that I am not conscious of having ever felt anything equal to it. At the same time I was made aware that this my coronation was a sign that I was to be the spouse of Christ, and that, in token of this, He desired that, by participating in His sufferings, I should acquire the title of the Spouse of God Crucified; therefore I was myself to be crucified with my divine Spouse. Every puncture on my head seemed to invite me to this. On the same day our Lord promised me that the grace I had just received should be repeated on different occasions. But the satisfaction which I derived from my sufferings was such that I seemed literally to pine after torments.” Surely this was a proof of the truth of the supernatural favour she had received.”

Very extraordinary stuff.  If this happened to someone today, blinding headaches, sudden  unconsciousness, visions, it might be very concerning.  But in 1660 there was a ready explanation with a silver lining and a path to sainthood.

Another copy here, easier to navigate, and here, both Google scans with images that are not quite as sharp.

There is also a version available on google books. There also seems to be a series of eight to ten volumes published by the monastery from 1969-1974 or so. Here is volume 5, which will give the chapter headings, but not even a snippet view. There is also an 8-volume set spanning several years, ending in 1895.



Moar fluffy bunnies

God and Melangell be with thee.
– Welsh protective blessing
Three hares motif

It must be because yesterday was the feast day for Saint Melangell, the patron of hares, that today the internets are awash in bunny rabbits.

So I have cleaned up one of the images from yesterday that was crooked (see Wyn bach Melangell), and added a few more, plus some coloring.  Also found a video of the Deer’s Cry (St. Patricks’s Lorica) that I was looking for yesterday when my battery went down.  Enjoy.

This first one is from The Welsh fairy-book. / By W. Jenkyn Thomas ; with one hundred illustrations by Willy Pogány. (1907), and believe me this one was not easy to find – a large one, that is.  There are a few thumbnails. It is in the public domain, however, the corporate fat cats do not have everything locked up, not quite yet. The image is on p 273.

The Welsh fairy-book (text):

BROCHWEL, the Prince of Powys, upon a certain day in the year of our Lord 604, was hunting in a place called Pennant. His hounds started a hare, and pursued it into a dense thicket. Following them into the thicket, he saw a beautiful maiden on her knees praying devoutly to God. The hare was lying on the folds of her garment, facing the hounds boldly.

The prince shouted, “Catch her, catch her!” but the more he urged his hounds on, the further did they retreat, and at last they fled away, howling with terror. The prince, astonished at the strange behaviour of his hounds, turned to the maiden and asked her who she was.

“I am the daughter of a King of Ireland,” she answered, “and because my father desired to wed me to one of his chiefs, I fled from my native soil, and, God guiding me, came to this desert place, where for fifteen years I have served God without seeing the face of any man.” The Prince enquired her name, and she replied that she was called Melangell (the Latin form of the name is Monacella).

Thereupon the Prince broke forth in these words, “O most worthy Melangell, I perceive that thou art the handmaiden of the true God. Because it hath pleased Him for thy merits to give protection to this little wild hare from the attack and pursuit of the ravening hounds, I give and present to thee with willing mind these my lands for the service of God, to be a perpetual asylum and refuge. If any men or women flee hither to seek thy protection, provided they do not pollute thy sanctuary, let no prince or chieftain be so rash towards God as to attempt to drag them forth.”

Melangell passed the rest of her days in this lonely place, sleeping on bare rock. Many were the miracles which she wrought for those who sought refuge in her sanctuary with pure hearts. The little wild hares were ever under her special protection, and that is why they are called “Melangell’s lambs.” Even now, if a hare is pursued by hounds and someone shouts after it, “God and Melangell be with thee,” it will escape.

More coloring:

Some more Melangell images

The Melangell shrine itself is ancient.  It is built inside a pre-Christian stone circle, usually a sign of a Celtic hermitage.  The surrounding yew trees are older than Christ. From time immemorial it has been known as one of the “thin places” between the earth and the spiritual realm.

Cwm Pennant galant gweli; cwm uchel
I ochel caledi,
Cwm iachus; nid oes i chwi
Ond cam i Ne’o’n cwm ni.

[You see Cwm Pennant shining; a high valley
To ward off hardship,
A healing valley; for you there is not
More than one step between our valley and heaven.]

There was a healing well nearby, another sign of ancient sacred spaces, but that has been closed off by a private owner.

Crime writer Fay Sampson visited the shrine and used it as a location for The Hunted Hare (2012). Simpson is also the author of the Daughter of Tintagel historical fiction series.

Bonus images:

The “three hares” symbol is also called “rotating rabbits”, “trois lievres” or “Tinners’ Rabbits”, a symbol of the Devon tin miners’ guild (although the symbol is oddly missing in the neighboring tin regions of Cornwall). It has many layers of meanings from multiple cultures.  It may represent the trinity, innocence, purity, fertility, or madness. It may also have Kabbalist implications, as the symbol has been found in synagogues above areas where the Torah and other sacred documents are stored.

The deer’s cry (St. Patrick’s Breatplate or lorica). If it doesn’t play embedded, right click then copy-paste to a new address bar. Vocals are by Rita Connolly.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul

Mil engyl a Melangell 

Trechant lu fyddin y fall. 

[Melangell with a thousand angels 

Triumphs over all the powers of evil.]

Welsh englyn


Wyn bach Melangell

I arise today through the strength of heaven
Light of sun, radiance of moon
Splendor of fire, speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind, depth of the sea
Stability of earth, firmness of rock
I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me
God’s eye to look before me
God’s wisdom to guide me
God’s way to lie before me
God’s shield to protect me
From all who shall wish me ill
Afar and a-near
Alone and in a multitude
Against every cruel, merciless power
That may oppose my body and soul
Christ with me, Christ before me
Christ behind me, Christ in me
Christ beneath me, Christ above me
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down
Christ when I arise, Christ to shield me
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me
I arise today.
“St. Patrick’s Breastplate

Somewhere east of Mount Snowdon, in the deep forests of Wales, is Saint Melangell’s Church.  In 604, Saint Melangell, the daughter of an Irish king, was fleeing an unwanted marriage, as saints do, when the Prince Brochwel Ysgythrog came upon her with his hunting party.  The hare they were chasing was protected inside Saint Melangell’s cloak and the dogs refused to go near.  The prince bequeathed the saint with some land for an abbey and the area became known as a safe haven for animals.  Today the hares are known locally as “wyn bach Melangell”, or Melangell’s lambs.

Melangell, the daughter of Tudwal Tudglyd, of the line of Macsen Wledig, was the foundress of Pennant Melangell, Montgomeryshire. She was sister to Rhydderch Hael ap Stratt Clyde; and her mother was Ethni, surnamed Wyddeles or the Irishwoman.”  Yes, we know her mother’s name.

Her feast day is May 27.

Saint Melangell‘s Wikipedia article mentions the incident, but the article for Brochwel Ysgrithrog is curiously silent. But this is Wikipedia after all, it’s hardly surprising to find yet another invisible woman.

Here is the art:

And here is the coloring:

Cloaking is nothing new in Celtic folklore. In 433, the Irish Saint Patrick was concealed from nearby hunters thanks to a magical breastplate, or Lorica.

Here is a lorica in Gaelic. If it doesn’t play embedded, right click on the screen and copy/paste to a new window.

Saint Euphrosyne, Bright starre of beauty, radiant Sunne of grace

“To ye most Glorious, Illustrious, Celestiall Princesse, and Immortall Spouse of Christ, ye mirror of Ladyes, and honour of sacred Virgins, ever Bd Saint Euphrosina. Daigne glorious Saint, ye honour of thy race/

Bright starre of beauty, radiant Sunne of grace”

-Sister Catharin Magdalene” (Eveling(e), professed at Aire 1620, died 1668, PCD MS 28, Poor Clares, Darlington manuscripts

The “ever Blessed” Saint Euphrosina / Euphrosyne / Efrosinia / Evfrosiniia of Polotsk is the patron saint of Belarus. Her feast day is May 23.

Euphrosyne is a saint near and dear to my heart, since, like my avatar Christine de Pisan, she is a medieval scribe.  Her grandfather, Vseslav the Sorcerer, was said to be a werewolf.

Euphrosyne started several monasteries.  She wrote music. She was an art patron.  She contributed to the rebuilding of the Sofia Cathedral. She contributed to the Polotsk chronicles, which improved relations between the Polotsk political center and Kiev. And she traveled to Jerusalem on pilgrimage.

Her story starts out in the usual way, a young girl escaping marriage who, at the age of twelve, finds her way to a nunnery. But Euphrosyne was more fortunate than some other saints, who ended up with martyrdom, as she was born to a royal family.


Vseslav the Sorcerer

According to the government of Belarus, Euphrosyne was born to the family of Prince Svyatoslav-Georgy, second son of Vseslav the Sorcerer (c. 1039 – 1101), who Wikipedia tells us was depicted as a werewolf in Russian sources. Other sources say she was Vseslav’s daughter, or that her date of birth was 1120, although most sources say she was born between 1101 and 1104. Her birth name was Predslava – she took the name Euphrosyne on entering religious life.

Euphrosyne’s grandfather, Vseslav the Sorcerer (Usiaslau) is famous for establishing Saint Sophia Cathedral in Polotsk, at the confluence of the Polota and Dvina rivers, which was completed during his long reign. Vseslav’s son (St. Euphrosyne’s father), Prince Svyatoslav Vseslavich (baptized: George) of Vitebsk (c 1065 – c 1130) was said to have married Sofiya Vladimirovna, who may have been the daughter of Vladimir II Vsevolodovich Monomakh of Kiev (Vladamir Monomakh) the co-prince of Svyatopolk Izyaslavich of Kiev, although it has been questioned why a woman from such a prestigious family would marry someone from Polotsk, which some consider to be a backwater.  So, after all that digging, we find that Saint Euphrosyne’s mother was Sofiya Vladimirovna. Why do they never bother to list the mother?

St. Euphrosyne was also the great-granddaughter of Bryachislav, Prince of Polotsk, the great-great-granddaughter of Izyaslav, Prince of Polotsk, and the great-great-great-granddaughter of Saint Vladimir the Great, Equal-to-the-Apostles and Rogneda of Polotsk. And for those who consider Polotsk to be a backwater and not worthy of prestigious marriages, the Rogvolod  dynasty had close ties with great European dynasties. “For instance, Vseslav the Sorcerer’s daughter married the Byzantine emperor Alexios Komnenos, and Vseslav’s great-granddaughter Sophia married King Valdemar І of Denmark in 1157. Their descendants occupied the thrones of Denmark, Sweden and France.”

Several sources say St. Euphrosyne ran away from her family to become a nun, and that she was helped by her aunt who was an abbess. So who was the aunt?  Probably the widow of Prince Roman/ Romanus.  One source calls her “Abbess Romana“.  One of Vseslav the Sorcerer’s six sons was Roman (c. 1114/1116), Prince of (probably) Drutsk, who died in either Ryazan or Murom. His widow became a nun and lived in Saint Sophia Cathedral in Polotsk, where she ran a charity.  One source says the aunt was the widow of Prince Romanus. Another says Euphrosyne was the sister-in-law of the widow of Roman Vseslavich of Drutsk (c 1054 – c 1115), which would again make her the sister of this Prince Roman, instead of the niece, and the daughter of the werewolf sorcerer, instead of the granddaughter, which most sources will tell you puts her birth date off by quite a bit. According to a history of local monasticism at the saint’s monastery, there was once for some time a convent in Polotsk, or near it, which was of the princess Romanov (княгиня романова), the widow of Prince Roman Vseslavich (Вдова князя Романа Всеславича) who died in 1116.


The young St. Euphrosyne is said to have established a business as a scribe near Sophia Cathedral, and distributed the proceeds from copying books as alms.

Around 1128, at the age of about 20,  Euphrosyne was commissioned by Bishop Elias of Polotska to found the Savior-Transfiguration monastery in a place called Seltso/Seltse, on lands belonging to the church.  She brought only her books, and was joined by her sister, her cousin and two nieces.

Euphrosyne’s sister was Gradislava (Eudokia in the monastic life).  Another notable woman who brought her wealth to the monastery was Zvenislava, a princess of Borisov, whose religious name was Eupraxia.

According to a historical document on the monastery’s website (right: charter)….

… Having accepted the command from the Angel and having received the bishop’s blessing, the Monk Euphrosinia, together with one nun, leaves the Church of St. Sophia to settle permanently at the Bishop Village, where the monastery she created now adores her.

The outskirts of Seltso were very lonely and deserted.There was a small, dilapidated wooden church in honor of the Holy Savior, near which the saint  built, wishing to spend the days of her life in silence and prayer.

… Seeing the multiplication by the day of the sisters in her abode, the saint . conceived to build a stone church on the site of a small wooden church. The grace of God, which was traveling to her, accomplished this good deed: a beautiful temple was erected at thirty weeks and consecrated in the name of the All-Merciful Savior.  – From the Life of St. Euphrosyne.

The convent became a cathedral in 1161, and the chapel has become iconic. See an aerial view short video here.

Euphrosyne started a friary as well, dedicated to the Theotokos/Mother of God. This friary became associated with a famous Hodigitria of Polotsk (Our Lady of Korsun) or “Korsunskaya” icon of the Theotokos she acquired from Byzantium that was said to have been painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist or more probably was a hand-painted 12th century copy of the original. The icon was associated with a Tuesday procession and weekly miracle in Constantinople, a ritual which may have been replicated in Polotsk.

Cross of Saint Euphrosyne

Euphrosyne commissioned a silver and enameled reliquary altar-cross from master jeweler Lazar Bogsha bearing her name: the Cross of Saint Euphrosyne.  It is about 20” high, and is a unique masterpiece of ancient Belarusian art. The Cross was a treasure of the medieval world that was loaned back and forth until it finally came back to Polatsk in 1841. It contained fragments of the Cross of Christ with drops of His blood, the stone from the tomb of the Mother of God, a part of the Holy Sepulcher, relics of St. Stephen and St. Panteleimon, and the blood of St. Demetrios.  It was thoroughly photographed for the record in 1896, but disappeared during WWII. It was considered a symbol of Belarus, and has now been replaced with a replica, duplicated from the photographs.

The Korsun icon of Polotsk

Euphrosyne’s name is connected with the emergence of a Madonna icon known as a Hodigitria, the “Korsunskaya” or “Korsun icon of Polotsk”, which was brought from Byzantium.

The icon was a gift from the byzantine emperor Manuel Comnemis and Patriarch Luka Hrysovergu. The image was from Ephesus, which was believed to be the location of one of the three icons believed to have been originally painted by St. Luke the Evangelist, who was regarded as the prototypical icon painter.  There are other miracle-working copies of this icon.  The icon spent a year in the city of Korsun, which is why it is sometimes called Korsunskaya.  Some more info about the icon here, in Russian, works with google translate.

In 1239, the icon, or perhaps another miracle-working copy, was borrowed by the daughter of Prince of Polotsk Bryachislav, Paraskeva, wife of Prince Alexander Nevsky, and taken to Bogoroditsky Cathedral the town Toropets.  It was credited for the city’s escape from a Polish invasion in the year 1611. The All Saints Church in Toropets has a list of Korsun icons: St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg, the Nezhinsky Monastery, the town of Usman of the Tambov Diocese, the Pavlo-Obnorsky Monastery of the Vologda Diocese, the Suzdal Savior-Euthymean Monastery, the Nizhny Novgorod Blagoveshchensk, and Priory Monastery.

In 1917, the Bolsheviks seized the image and took it to Leningrad, later it was taken to the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

Here is something more about the icon, a 3-minute video, sorry not in English, but the vocal harmonies are very nice.

And here is Kontakion 13, the 14th sub-part of the kontakion seems to be the proper Orthodox ritual for this image. The entire group of hymns is called the athistos cycle, the most popular Byzantine hymn in praise of the Mother of God.

Pilgrimage, death, and tombs

Saint Euphrosina made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1173 and never returned. She entrusted her monastery in Polotsk to Mother Eudocia, and traveled with relatives, with her nephew David and sister Eupraxia.  She was welcomed by King Amaury I (King of Jerusalem from 1163-1174) and the Frankish patriarch, who knew who she was.  She also stopped in Constantinple where she had petitioned to acquire the icon for her friory.   She died in the so-called Russian convent near the church of the Holy Virgin.  She sent to the laura / lavra of St. Sabas to see if she could be buried in their monastery but was told that women were not permitted to be buried there.  Instead the convent of the Holy Virgin of Theodosius was recommended, as several holy women of note had been buried there, including the mothers of several saints.  A burial place was prepared in the narthex of the monastery and 24 days later she died and her body was brought there.

According to an 1185 eyewitness account, the monastery had a circular roof and several caves underneath. Saint Theodosius the Cenobiarch had assisted, and later succeeded Saint Anthony of the Kievan Caves (right: Euphrosina’s relics in Kiev monastery cave) in founding the Kiev Pechersk Lavra-Caves Monastery.  Her relics were subsequently brought to Kiev after Saladin conquered the Holy Land in 1187, but have since been returned to her home monastery.  In 1909, Tsar Nicholas II approved the move of the relics, and during Bright Week (the week after Orthodox Easter) of 1910, her relics were carried from Kiev to Polotsk, while crowds lined the roads. Among those gathered along the route were Saint Elizabeth the Grand Duchess, Grand Duke Konstantine Constantinovich, and Olga Constantinovna of Russian, wife of King George I of Greece.

The relics did not remain there undisturbed, however, they were returned again for the second time, from Rostov, in 1921 and for the third time from Vitebsk to Polotsk in 1943. History from the monastery website here (in Russian).

Images (l to r): procession in 2010, relics in Polotsk 1950s, tomb in Polotsk.

Note: this has taken a loooong time to compile, I thought she would be an easy saint, or perhaps an inspirational saint, but her life is intertwined with much eastern European and Middle Eastern politics and history, so any inspiration to be derived will probably come from the associated rituals and icons.  And I am still looking for the Vita, which several sources have quoted and which I now realize must be in Russian, and also the hymns she composed. Several of her personal seals have been found (it’s somewhere on the monastery website, in Russian), so surely there is a body of personal correspondence or some kind of documention that survived the military upheavals, probably in a museum or library somewhere, but as yet they have eluded me.

So…here are a few icons…

The Dutch Saint Lidwina

Since it is Sunday, it is time for spiritual reflection.

The obvious choice for April 14 is the Dutch Saint Lidwina (1380-1433), patron of ice skaters, and those with long-term illnesses.

She also has the first recorded image of iron, rather than bone ice skates (PDF in Dutch), and possibly the first recorded case of multiple sclerosis.

4 skate - iron fitting

1 skate = bone 2 skate - magnus 5 skate - kalisz museum - iron 3 skate - horse bone

There is an incredible writeup of this, much better than the usual hagiography, on the blog The Illegiterati:We have opinions, which I know nothing about, but since they also link to XKCD in their sidebar, and because it’s planting season, not to mention tax season, I’m going to just go with it:  “St. Lidwina of Schiedam”, July 3, 2011 by Alex

The only thing certain about Lidwina, or Lydwine (which seems to yield better search results), at least as certain as one can ever be about a saint from six centuries ago, is that she fell on the ice while skating and never recovered. Like many other female saints, her father had also been offered several marriages for her, which were considered good, and which she refused, just prior to embarking on her sainthood journey at the age of 14.

There were rumors about sexual improprieties by the local priest, and more stories about miraculous lactation, that might point to a pregnancy concealed by mystical rhetoric, since women of that era were permitted the spiritual gift of mystical visions.

Now this is truly curious:

“Shortly thereafter, Lidwina had a vision of the Virgin Mary and a host of other holy women surrounding her bed, opening their tunics and lactating into the sky.”

Oddly enough, Commons doesn’t seem to have an image of this extraordinary event, and the art world seems to have ignored it as well.

There are plenty of online images of a lactating Mary squirting milk in the direction of St. Bernard, but not Lidwina.  The Madonna Lactans does seem more of a Flemish thing.

Lidwina is sometimes pictured with roses, as she predicted her death at the time a particular rose bush would bloom.

(This should be good for coloring. Unless it’s too depressing.)

Oh I love it when this happens..there is very little about this saint online, however….I have unearthed an entire 15th century book full of woodcuts of her in her home town library (in Dutch):

One of the top pieces that the Schiedam Municipal Archives has in custody is the incunabel of Liduina, Vita alme virginis Lijdwine written by Johannes (Jan) Brugman. The incunabel comes from the archives of the Old Catholic Congregation of St. John the Baptist. The copy is a print from 1498 illustrated with woodcuts.

Here is one of the illustrations from the incunable. (An incunable or “cradle print” is just a book, sheet of paper, or print – but not a manuscript = printed in Europe before January 1, 1501, in the early days of the printing press.)


Sources for Lydwina/Lidwina/Liedway Peters/St. Lydwine:

Full text:

Sainte Lydwine de Schiedam, by Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848—1907), in French, published Paris 1901.  ASIN: B00L7A6Z6K Internet Archive: (scan from U of Toronto), (scan from U of Ottawa); (scan from U of I Urbana-Champaign), google books.

Johannes Brugman‘s “Life of St Lidwina”, Vita Alme Virginis Lidwine,   printed in Schiedam in 1498. (Download here: Incunabel)

Sir Francis Cruise in his Thomas à Kempis, (Kegan Paul & Co., 1887), description of seeing and venerating the holy relics at Schiedam. In English.  ASIN: B000868YWW Hathitrust. Internet Archive.

St. Lydwine of Schiedam, Virgin; by Thomas à Kempis, 1380-1471; tr. Scully, Vincent Joseph, 1876-; in English, published by Burns & Oates, London, 1912. Also Thomas a Kempis opera omnia (friburgi brisigavorrum:herder, 1902-1918) volume 6 (in Latin) WorldCat. Thomas à Kempis was a contemporary of the saint, work was based chiefly on John Brugman’s Life, also verbal communications of Master John Walters of Lyden, her confessor for 8 years and John Gerlac, a relative who lived in her household. Also from a letter the Governors of the city of Schiedam delivered as a testimony of the ailments of the virgin and maid “Liedway Peters” to Master John Angels of Dordrecht, of the Order of Premontre, of Marienwaer who was then pastor of the town church.  The work was reviewed by Walters and Gerlac prior to publication. Internet Archive; (scan from University of Toronto) , (scan from John A. Kelly Library).

Sainte Lydwine de Schiedam, by Meuffels, Hubert, Paris : V. Lecoffre, 1925, extensive bibliography in Latin, French, Dutch, and other languages. Internet Archive: (microform from University of Chicago)

No text:

Life of St. Lidwine (tr. from Flemish of Ruysbroeck) by Vincent Joseph Henry Scully (1876 – 20th century) (in English)  (bio) (Is this the same as St. Lydwine of Schiedam, Virgin?, I think not.) John Gerlac, her relative and an ascetic writer and a Canon Regular of Windesheim, wrote the saint’s first biography in German. John Brugman’s first Life, the one translated by Thomas à Kempis, is little more than a translation of this into Latin. Brugman’s later biography has more detail.

John Brugman‘s first Life, in Latin translated by Thomas à Kempis, 1380-1471, later biography with more detail, both biographies edited and annotated by Papebroch in the Bollandist’s Acta Sanctorum, April Vol. II [Aprilis, Tomus secundus, eds. Societe des Bollandesites (Paris:Palme, 1866) 270-303].

Entry for Saint Lidwine in Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index.

Iohannis Brugman O.F.M. Vita alme virginis Liidwine, Groningen, Wolters, 1963. xvi + 178pp.+ frontispice, in the series “Teksten en documenten” vol.2, text in Latin.

Het leven van de H. Liduina; Nijmegen, Malmberg, 1890. 136pp.+ frontispice.