Home  »  Volume VI: June  »  St. Petroc, in French Perreuse, Abbot and Confessor

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume VI: June. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

June 4

St. Petroc, in French Perreuse, Abbot and Confessor

HAVING laid the foundation of a virtuous education in Wales, his native country, he passed into Ireland, and there spent twenty years in sacred studies, and in the most fervent exercises of devotion and penance. For his further improvement he made a pilgrimage to Rome, and returning to Cornwall, shut himself up in a monastery of which he was himself the founder, at a place since called from him Petrocs-Stow, now Padstow, which stands at the mouth of the river Alan or Camel on the Bristol Channel: it is a good sea-port, much frequented by Irish, who make up a considerable part of the inhabitants.  1
  Bodmin, a flourishing town almost in the centre of Cornwall, about twelve miles from each of the two seas, was also illustrious for having been some time the dwelling-place of St. Petroc, whom some distinguish from St. Petroc of Padstow, because Dugdale calls him a bishop. But it was not uncommon in Ireland at that time, for eminent abbots to be raised to the episcopal dignity in their own monasteries by the neighbouring bishops. And Sir James Ware and Mr. Harris find, in some Irish legends, the title of bishop promiscuously used for that of abbot. At least, neither in the registers or archives of Exeter, nor in Godwin, Le Neve, or any others is his name found in the lists of the bishops of Cornwall. 1 And all accounts in Leland and others suppose the same St. Petroc to have retired from Padstow to Bodmin, and there founded a second monastery and a great church which king Athelstan afterwards favoured with great benefactions and singular privileges. In this place, St. Petroc ended his mortal course about the year 564, on the 4th of June. His shrine and tomb in Leland’s time, in the reign of Henry VIII. remained in the eastern part of the church of Bodmin, not far from the high altar. At Padstow he had, among others, three eminent holy disciples, Credan, Medan, and Dachan. From his numerous monastery at Bodmin, that place was anciently called Bosmana, or Bodmanachie, that is, the mansion of monks. This great church was originally served by monks: after king Athelstan’s munificent benefactions by secular clergy, and in the reign of Henry I., it became a flourishing monastery of regular canons of St. Austin. The relics of St. Petroc were carried privately to St. Meen’s monastery in Brittany in 1178; but upon the complaint of Roger, prior of the regular canons at Bodmin, the king of England procured them to be brought back and restored to the great church of Bodmin the year following, where it was still standing in Leland’s time.  2
  St. Petroc is titular saint of a church in Nivernois in France, Bodmin, and several other churches and chapels in Cornwall, Devonshire, &c. In the calendars of some churches and monasteries of Brittany the feast of St. Petroc is ordered to be kept of the first class with an octave. See Lobineau, p. 1, &c. On St. Petroc, see Leland in his Itinerary, second edition, vol. 8, p. 52; vol. 3, p. 2; vol. 2, p. 84; in his Collectanea, vol. 1, p. 75; vol. 3, p. 188, and 209; Capgrave, Chatelain, Colgan in MSS. ad 4 Junii, and Borlase, Antiquities of Cornwall.  3
Note 1. Devonshire and Cornwall, being part of Wessex, were long subject to the bishop of that kingdom, who resided first at Dorchester, and after 600 at Winchester. A bishopric being erected at Shirburne in 705, (which was removed to Sarum in the eleventh century,) these counties belonged to it, till at the request of King Ina, a bishop was placed at Bodmin for Cornwall, about the year 720, whose name was Conan, whose ten successors are enumerated by Godwin and Le Neve. In 905, Werstan, called also Adulphe, was consecrated bishop for Devonshire, and resided at Bishop’s Tawton in that county: but Eadulph, the third from him, removed his see to Crediton or Kirton, seven miles from Exeter. His eleventh successor Leofric was also bishop of Cornwall, and in 1050 removed both these sees to Exeter.
  That of Cornwall had been translated in the reign of King Athelstan by Bishop Sydenham, the seventh from Werstan, from Bodmin to the town of St. German’s, the cathedral of St. Petroc’s and the bishop’s palace, with the greater part of the town, having been burnt down by the Danes when they plundered the countries of Devonshire and Cornwall. Three bishops of Cornwall resided at St. German’s till the union of these sees at Exeter. See Leland’s Collectanea, t. 1, p. 75; Le Neve, Fusti, &c. [back]