Saint Piran, Bishop of Padstowe, Cornwall (†480)
In Cornwall and Brittany March 5th is observed as the feast of St. Piran or Perran and many scholars have identified him with St.Ciaran. Of these John of Tynmouth, who wrote his medieval biography, ascribes similar stories to the two saints, (if indeed they are two).
What is certain is that Piran was one of the missionaries which came to Cornwall from Ireland and Wales and it seems sensible for us to merely record what we know of this saint, who is the most popular of Cornish saints and the patron, if not of the Duchy at least of the miners.
Perranporth is the traditional place of Piran’s arrival, in true Celtic style on a mill stone according to legend. Inland among the sand dunes, lies buried one of the oldest churches in these islands, his chapel at Perranzabuloc. In the Middle Ages relics of the saint who lay entombed beneath the altar were shown to pilgrims and it was, with St Michaels’s Mount, the most frequented of holy places. In the twelfth century however the sands were engulfing the ancient edifice and the relics had to be removed to another church although the old standing cross remained among the dunes. In 1834 the walls were discovered and excavated and in 1910 they were encased in a concrete shell to protect them but they are now again hidden beneath the sand.
The preaching of this holy man and the miracles granted through him brought so many people to God that there are numerous dedications to him in Cornwall and in Brittany and South Wales. As you might expect, in Cornwall, the places associated with him are in the region of the Fal estuary, which was the usual embarkation place for Brittany. Perrarworthal has a Perran well and then there are Perrannthnoe and Perran Downs. In Brittany Saint Perran is a small place south of Saint Brienc.
St. Piran is believed to have been interested in stones and collected various mineral bearing rocks, one particularly large black one he used as the hearth for his fire and was amazed when it got very hot a flow of metal came out white in colour and in the shape of a cross. This appearance of tin not only made him the patron of tinners but also suggested his flag, a silver cross on a black ground which is often used as the standard of Cornwall and symbolizes the Christian Gospel, light out of darkness, good from evil.
Piran died at his little hermitage near the beach. His relics were a great draw to pilgrims but, due to inundation by the sands, they were moved inland to the Parish Church of Perran-Zabulo, built to house them. (more)