St Petroc

St Petroc

St Petroc, landed in Cornwall from Ireland and spent 30 years in Padstow, founded his monastery here in the 6th century. St Petroc later moved to Bodmin.

St. Petroc gave his name to the Padstow (Petroc's - stow) and to Little Petherick near Wadebridge. He was the founder of Bodmin, which for some time was an Abbey-Bishopric, and remained the religious capital of Cornwall up to the end of the Middle Ages.

Medieval Manuscripts

We know about St. Petroc from the translation of the text of "The Vita Petroci", written in the 12th century

During the Reformation references to the ‘Lives’ of the saints in Cornwall were deliberately destroyed. However similar Breton manuscripts survived the excesses of the British Reformation. The manuscripts of the ‘Vita Petroci’ had been (badly) translated by fourteenth century monk, named John of Tynemouth. However a better translation was published in 1930 by the late Canon G.H.Doble, called "St. Petroc, Abbot and Confessor". Doble wrote extensively about the Saints of Cornwall.

Soon after this a volume of forty five ‘Lives’ of English and Cornish saints written by contemporaries of St. Petroc was unearthed in the Ducal Library of Gotha, in Eastern Germany.

The Gotha document described St Petroc as being "handsome in appearance, courteous in speech, prudent, simpleminded, modest, humble, a cheerful giver, burning with ceaseless charity, always ready for all the works of religion because while still a youth he had attained by watchful care the wisdom of riper years".

He was the younger son of King Glywys in Wales. On his father's death, he was offered the crown of part of the kingdom, but Petroc wanted to study for a religious life, and went to in Ireland.

"Vita Petroci" describes their stay in Ireland for 20 years. The whole group then returned to Britain, apparently in the original ship, which had brought them to Ireland. St. Petroc is said to have landed at the mouth of the river Camel, near Trebetherick, in the 6th century.

They took over the Celtic Monastery of Lanwethinoc, which had been founded by Bishop Wethinoc. The monastery became known as Petrocstow, Petroc's Church. The name Lanwethnoc remained long enough to be recorded in the Domesday Book as such. He began to build at the top of the creek, the sea level coming further in than at present, first a church, and then other buildings to make a complete Celtic monastery with a school, infirmary, library, farm and cells for the monks.

The Gotha manuscript tells how, after about 30 years in Padstow, St. Petroc travelled to Rome and Brittany. He returned to Britain and as he reached Newton Saint Petroc (in Devon), it began to rain. Petroc predicted it would soon stop, but it rained for three days. As a self imposed penance for presuming to predict God's weather, Petroc returned to Rome, then to Jerusalem, then to India where he lived seven years on an island in the Indian Ocean.

When a hunted deer sought refuge in Saint Petroc's cell. Petroc protected it from the hunter. The hunter turned out to be , King Constantine of Dumnonia, who ruled this part of Cornwall. St Petroc used the opportunity to convert the king to Christianity. St Petroc was thereafter given the protection of King Constantine.

Gotha Manuscript records that St Petroc set out from Padstow in about 518 and found Guron (or Vuron), a holy hermit, living in his hermitage at Bothmena or Bodmyia (the Abode of Monks). Guron left his hermitage to St Petroc, and journeyed south to found another at Guron Haven (Gorran Haven). St. Petroc arrived with three of his fellow saints, Credan, Medan and Dechan.

St. Guron had already discovered the this was a very good place to have his hermitage It was near running water, there was a pool, many water springs, and it was in a sheltered the valley with good agricultural land. Before long St. Guron's hermitage was enlarged into a Priory of considerable size and importance. St. Petroc became the first Prior of Bodmin.

He died circa 594 while travelling between Nanceventon and Lanwethinoc to visit disciples there. His relics and his handbell (the cimbalum) were used for for at least five hundred years after his death, and were preserved until the Reformation.

Bodmin Church history, records what happened to the monastery after St Petroc's death. And the story of the saints relics.


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