Saint Petroc

Saint Petroc

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Saint Petroc (died 564) is a 6th century Celtic Christian
Celtic Christianity
Celtic Christianity or Insular Christianity refers broadly to certain features of Christianity that were common, or held to be common, across the Celtic-speaking world during the Early Middle Ages...

 saint
Saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

. He was born in Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 but primarily ministered to the Britons
Brython
The Britons were the Celtic people culturally dominating Great Britain from the Iron Age through the Early Middle Ages. They spoke the Insular Celtic language known as British or Brythonic...

 of Dumnonia
Dumnonia
Dumnonia is the Latinised name for the Brythonic kingdom in sub-Roman Britain between the late 4th and late 8th centuries, located in the farther parts of the south-west peninsula of Great Britain...

 which included the modern counties of Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

 (Dewnans), Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

 (Kernow
Kingdom of Cornwall
The Kingdom of Cornwall was an independent polity in southwest Britain during the Early Middle Ages, roughly coterminous with the modern English county of Cornwall. During the sub-Roman and early medieval periods Cornwall was evidently part of the kingdom of Dumnonia, which included most of the...

), and parts of Somerset
Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

 (Gwlas an Hav) and Dorset
Dorset
Dorset , is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The county town is Dorchester which is situated in the south. The Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch joined the county with the reorganisation of local government in 1974...

. He also became a popular saint in Brittany
Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

 by the end of the tenth century.

Early life


The earliest Life of Petroc states that he was the son of an unnamed Welsh king. This was rewritten at Bodmin in the twelfth century in a version known as the 'Gotha Life' which states that he was a son of King Glywys
Glywys
Glywys is described in Welsh genealogies as an early 5th century Welsh king who is seen as an important character in early Welsh history. The kingdom of Glywysing is believed to have been named after Glywys, and is the earliest place name for the land between the Rivers Tawe and Usk...

 of Glywysing (Orme 2000, p. 215) and a brother of Gwynllyw
Gwynllyw
Saint Gwynllyw Milwr or Gwynllyw Farfog, known in English in a corrupted form as Woolos the Warrior or Woolos the Bearded was a Welsh king and religious figure....

, and there are local dedications to him at St Petroc near Pembroke
Pembroke, Pembrokeshire
Pembroke is an historic settlement and former county town of Pembrokeshire in west Wales. The town and the county derive their name from that of the cantref of Penfro: Pen = "head" or "end", and bro = "region", "country", "land", and so it means essentially "Land's End".-History:The main point of...

 and Ferwig near Cardigan
Cardigan, Ceredigion
Cardigan is a town in the county of Ceredigion in Mid Wales. It lies on the estuary of the River Teifi at the point where Ceredigion meets Pembrokeshire. It was the county town of the pre-1974 county of Cardiganshire. It is the second largest town in Ceredigion. The town's population was 4,203...

. He has also given his name to Llanbedrog
Llanbedrog
Llanbedrog is a village and community on the Llŷn peninsula of Gwynedd in Wales. It is situated on the south side of the peninsula on the A499 between Pwllheli and Abersoch. Formerly in the county of Caernarfonshire, it has a population of 1,020....

, a village on the Lleyn peninsula. He studied in Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 where he is said to have been the teacher of Saint Kevin
Kevin of Glendalough
Saint Cóemgen , popularly anglicized to Kevin is an Irish saint who was known as the founder and first abbot of Glendalough in County Wicklow, Ireland.-Life:...

.

Travels



After studying, he began his mission to Cornwall, where he is associated with monasteries at Padstow
Padstow
Padstow is a town, civil parish and fishing port on the north coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The town is situated on the west bank of the River Camel estuary approximately five miles northwest of Wadebridge, ten miles northwest of Bodmin and ten miles northeast of Newquay...

 and Bodmin
Bodmin
Bodmin is a civil parish and major town in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It is situated in the centre of the county southwest of Bodmin Moor.The extent of the civil parish corresponds fairly closely to that of the town so is mostly urban in character...

. The name of the earlier monastery was Lanwethinoc (the church of Wethinoc an earlier holy man). Padstow, which is named after him (Pedroc-stowe, or 'Petrock's Place'), appears to have been his major cult centre for some time. Some time after the middle of the ninth century Bodmin became the major centre for his veneration and his relics were moved there, with the Bodmin monastery becoming one of the wealthiest Cornish churches by the eleventh century. There are other dedications to him in Cornwall, including Little Petherick, and he is even said to have converted its king, Constantine of Dumnonia, to Christianity
Celtic Christianity
Celtic Christianity or Insular Christianity refers broadly to certain features of Christianity that were common, or held to be common, across the Celtic-speaking world during the Early Middle Ages...

. After thirty years, legend says that he went on the pilgrimage to Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 by way of Brittany
Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

.

Upon his return Petroc is said to have passed through Devon, where ancient dedications to him are even more numerous: a probable seventeen (plus Timberscombe
Timberscombe
Timberscombe is a village and civil parish on the River Avill south-west of Dunster, and south of Minehead within the Exmoor National Park in Somerset, England...

 just over the border in Somerset), compared to Cornwall's five. The position of churches bearing his name, including one within the old Roman walls of Exeter
Exeter
Exeter is a historic city in Devon, England. It lies within the ceremonial county of Devon, of which it is the county town as well as the home of Devon County Council. Currently the administrative area has the status of a non-metropolitan district, and is therefore under the administration of the...

 (Karesk), are nearly always near the coast reminding us that in those days travelling was done mainly by sea. The Devonian villages of Petrockstowe
Petrockstowe
First mentioned in the Domesday Book Petrockstowe is a small village in the Devon district of Torridge in Northern Devon. It is near the end of the Tarka Trail. Its population has fluctuated between 400 and 600...

 and Newton St Petroc are also named after Saint Petroc.

The legendary tales surrounding Petroc are exceptionally vivid and imaginative (giving him a second pilgrimage
Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

, travels to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, taming wolves) and may represent interpolation from pagan tales.

A description of his travels has him dying on a journey to Lanwethinoc (now Padstow
Padstow
Padstow is a town, civil parish and fishing port on the north coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The town is situated on the west bank of the River Camel estuary approximately five miles northwest of Wadebridge, ten miles northwest of Bodmin and ten miles northeast of Newquay...

) at a house belonging to a family named Rovel, which is thought to be near a farm now called Treravel near Little Petherick
Little Petherick
Little Petherick is a village and civil parish in north Cornwall, United Kingdom. It is situated two miles south of Padstow and 6 miles west of Wadebridge....

.

Veneration


In iconography
Iconography
Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", and comes from the Greek "image" and "to write". A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the...

, Petroc is usually shown with a stag. His feast day is June 4. His major shrine
Shrine
A shrine is a holy or sacred place, which is dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, daemon or similar figure of awe and respect, at which they are venerated or worshipped. Shrines often contain idols, relics, or other such objects associated with the figure being venerated....

 was always at St Petroc's Church
Bodmin Parish Church
Bodmin Parish Church is an Anglican church in Bodmin, Cornwall, United Kingdom.The existing church building is dated 1469-72 and was until the building of Truro Cathedral the largest church in Cornwall...

, Bodmin. In 1177, a Breton
Breton people
The Bretons are an ethnic group located in the region of Brittany in France. They trace much of their heritage to groups of Brythonic speakers who emigrated from southwestern Great Britain in waves from the 3rd to 6th century into the Armorican peninsula, subsequently named Brittany after them.The...

 stole his relics from Bodmin and gave them to the Abbey of St Meen. However, Henry II
Henry II of England
Henry II ruled as King of England , Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Count of Nantes, Lord of Ireland and, at various times, controlled parts of Wales, Scotland and western France. Henry, the great-grandson of William the Conqueror, was the...

 restored them and, though the relics were thrown out during the English Reformation
English Reformation
The English Reformation was the series of events in 16th-century England by which the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church....

, their beautiful ivory casket is still on public display in the church. With Saint Piran
Saint Piran
Saint Piran or Perran is an early 6th century Cornish abbot and saint, supposedly of Irish origin....

 and Saint Michael
Michael (archangel)
Michael , Micha'el or Mîkhā'ēl; , Mikhaḗl; or Míchaël; , Mīkhā'īl) is an archangel in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic teachings. Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans refer to him as Saint Michael the Archangel and also simply as Saint Michael...

, he is one of the patron saint
Patron saint
A patron saint is a saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person...

s of Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

. He was described by Thomas Fuller
Thomas Fuller
Thomas Fuller was an English churchman and historian. He is now remembered for his writings, particularly his Worthies of England, published after his death...

 as "the captain of Cornish saints".

Modern uses

  • The Flag of Devon
    Flag of Devon
    The Flag of Devon is the flag of the English county of Devon. It is dedicated to Saint Petroc, a local saint with numerous dedications throughout the West Country and particularly in Devon. It is notable for its creation through two web-based polls.-History:...

     is the flag
    Flag
    A flag is a piece of fabric with a distinctive design that is usually rectangular and used as a symbol, as a signaling device, or decoration. The term flag is also used to refer to the graphic design employed by a flag, or to its depiction in another medium.The first flags were used to assist...

     of the English
    England
    England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

     county of Devon
    Devon
    Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

    . It is dedicated to Saint Petroc.
  • The merger of North
    North Devon College
    North Devon College was a further education college in Barnstaple, North Devon. It is now part of Petroc.-History:North Devon College first opened in 1952....

     and East
    East Devon College
    East Devon College was a further education college situated in Tiverton, Devon, England. The college operated on four sites; the main campus being located in Tiverton, with three additional sites being located in Honiton, Exmouth and Tiverton. In 2005 the college enrolled 3,144 learners, of which...

     Devon Colleges led to them being re-branded under the name Petroc.

Further reading