Celtic and Old English Saints 1 June
* St. Herve of Brittany
* St. Ruadan of Cornwall & Brittany
* St. Whyte of Dorset
* St. Wistan of Evesham
* St. Thecla of Denbighshire
* St. Ronan of Kilmaronen
* St. Caprais of Lerins
St. Herve of Brittany, Abbot
(Harvey, Herveus, Huva)
Died 575 AD.. Saint Herve is venerated throughout Brittany but we have
few reliable particulars on him--his life was not written until the late
medieval period. All we really know is that he was a hermit in Brittany,
where he is still highly venerated and where Herve is one of the most
popular names for boys.
The story goes that a young British bard named Hyvarnion, a pupil of
Saint Cadoc, lived at the court of Childebert, king of the Franks. After
four years, desiring to return to his native land, he set off through
Brittany, where one day, riding through a wood, he heard a young girl
singing. The sweetness of her voice made him curious and, dismounting
from his horse, he made his way through the trees to where in a sunny
glade he found a maiden gathering herbs. He asked her what they were
for. "This herb,"
she replied, "drives away sadness, that one banishes blindness, and I
look for the herb of life that drives away death." Hyvarnion, forgetting
his homeward journey, in that hour loved her, and later he married her.
After three years they had a son who was born blind, and in their sorrow
they called him Herve, which means bitterness. When he was two years
old, his father died, and the mother, Rivanon, and child were left poor
and friendless. In her grief she sang to him and he grew up to love
poetry and music. When Herve was seven, Rivanon gave him into the care
of a holy man named Arthian and she became a hermit. The child wandered
about the countryside singing and begging, led by a white dog which he
held on a string. To this day the Bretons sing a ballad of the blind
child, led by his dog, singing as he shivered in the wind and the rain,
with no shoes on his bare feet, his teeth chattering with the cold.
At age 14, with his mother's approval, he sought out an uncle who was a
hermit and kept a monastic school in the forest at Plouvien. His uncle
welcomed him, and soon Herve excelled in knowledge beyond all his other
pupils. On his uncle's death, he became abbot. Every morning the
children gathered to be taught by their blind master, and every evening
they left "like a swarm of bees issuing from a hollow oak." He
instructed them in music and poetry, and, above all, in the Christian
way of life.
"When you wake up in bed," he said, "offer your hearts to the good God,
make the sign of the Cross and say with faith and hope and love, 'I give
You my heart, my body and my soul. Make me a good man.' When you see a
crow fly, think of the devil, black and evil. When you see a dove fly,
think of your angel, gentle and white. Think of God, as the sun makes
the wild roses bloom on the mountains. In the evening, before going to
bed, say your prayers that a white angel may come from heaven and watch
you till the dawn. This is the true way to live as Christians. Practice
my song, and you will lead holy lives."
In addition to teaching, Herve worked the fields near the school. He was
venerated for his holiness and his miracles. One day a wolf ate the
donkey with which he was ploughing the fields. The young child who was
Herve's guide cried out in fear, but at Herve's prayers, the wolf put
himself into the donkey's harness and finished the work to be done.
Later he decided to move the community to Leon. There the bishop wanted
to ordain him priest, but Herve humbly declined. Thus, although he was
never a priest, Herve is said to have participated in the solemn
anathematizing of the tyrannical ruler Conomor, c. 550. From Leon the
holy group travelled west. Beside the road to Lesneven is the fountain
of Saint Herve, which he is said to have caused to flow to satisfy the
thirst of his companions. Finally, they settled and Herve built a
monastery at Lanhouarneau in Finistere, which earned a great reputation.
Coming out from his monastery, where he lived for the rest of his life,
Herve would travel forth periodically to preach or act as exorcist. He
was no longer led by a white dog, but by his little niece, Kristine, who
lived near him in a cottage of thatch and wattle built for her by the
monks, and who, gay as a fairy, sang to him as she gathered flowers for
the altar. When he came to die, he said to her: "Tina, my dear, make my
bed ready, but make it not as is wont. Make it on the hard earth, before
the altar, at the feet of Jesus. Place a stone for my bolster, and strew
my bed with ashes." Weeping, she carried out his wish, and said: "May I
follow in due course, as the boat follows the ship."
As his monks watched at his deathbed, they were said to have heard the
music of the heavenly choirs welcoming him to heaven. So died the blind
Breton saint, who had taught in the school in the forest, and who all
his life, despite his blindness, had given glory to God.
Until the French Revolution, a chapel (now destroyed) near Cleder in
Finistere possessed a most unusual relics: the cradle in which Saint
Herve had been rocked (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopaedia,
In art, Saint Herveus is a blind abbot telling frogs to be quiet or
being led by a wolf (Roeder) or his child guide. He is invoked against
eye problems (Delaney). Breton mothers threaten their mischievous
children with his wolf (White).
Image of St Herve
St Hervп═Б└√ is thought to be the composer of the popular and moving "kantik
ar baradoz" (an hymn to paradise) often sung at funerals. To listen to
Troparion of St Herve Tone l
O Herve, thou minstrel and teacher of the Faith,/ thy sweet voice
enlightened the darkness though thou wast born without the gift of
sight./ Pray that the light of Christ may ever dispel the new pagan
darkness from our lands,/ that God may be glorified.
St. Ruadan of Cornwall (of Quimper), Bishop
(also known as Ronan, Rumon, Ruadhan, Ruan)
Died 6th century. Ordained by Saint Patrick. Saint Ruadan was patron of
the abbey of Tavistock in Devonshire, as well as several places in
Cornwall and Brittany. He is important in the traditions of Brittany,
where he died, and the region of Laon. Ruadan is buried at Locronan.
Every six years the faithful make a processional pilgrimage along the
traditional 10-mile route
followed by Ruadan during his mission. Today's saint should not be
confused with the Irish Saint Ruadan (Benedictines, Encyclopaedia,
Farmer, Gill, Montague).
"Just as England has her Cornwall, so has Brittany her Cornouille, viz.
" Every sixth year a 'pardon' was held in honour of the sixth century
saint S.Ronan. The Grande Tromenie is held on the second Sunday of July,
and is a mass procession that follows the route [10 miles - Fr. A]taken
by two oxen who, on the saint's death, were allowed to wander of their
own accord from his place of death to a place of burial ( the hill
outside the village of Locranon). After a service in the church nearly
15,000 worshippers climb the hill with their relics, past crosses and
other memorials. The author complained that he could only find
refreshment at the summit in drinking syrups, each stickier than the
last. How different, he complains, from the Godless hordes of England's
Epsom and Derby Day.
Extract from "The Grande Tromenie of Locronan,
in Amorican Cornwall, Seen in July 1911 and
Described by Niall, Duke of Argyll," Published London, 1914,
Society of Ss. Peter & Paul
St. Whyte (Gwen, White, Wite, Witta, Candida)
Anchoress and Martyr
Date unknown. We don't really know much about Saint Whyte, though there
are several possibilities according to various legends. She gave her
name to the place where she is buried, Whitchurch Canonicorum in Dorset.
Her modest shrine is the only one, other than that of Saint Edward the
Confessor, to have survived intact. There are several theories on her
identification. She may be a West Saxon of whom no other record
survives. She might be the Welsh Saint Gwen whose relics King Athelstan
gave to this church. A third theory holds that Saint Whyte is actually
the male Bishop Saint Albinus of Buraburg, also known as Saint Witta, a
companion of Saint Boniface, martyred with him and then translated back
to Wessex. William Worcestre and John Gerard both mentioned her relics.
Thomas More referred to the custom of offering cakes or cheese to the
saint on her feast--probably only at this church. In 1900, her leaden
coffin was opened. It was inscribed "Hic requiescunt reliquie sancte
Wite." The badly damaged reliquary held the bones of a small woman who
died about the age of 40, so it appears that the third theory fails
Additional information: St. Whyte (Gwen) was a Saxon murdered by Danish
pirates, according to Alan Smith's book, Sixty Saxon Saints. The church
where her relics are enshrined was given by King Alfred to his youngest
son. The shrine itself is 13th
St. Wistan, King of England, Martyred at Evesham
(Winston, Wystan, Wigstan)
Died June 1, 849. Wistan, prince of Mercia and grandson of King Wiglaf
of Mercia (827-840), is said to have been put to death by King Bertulph
(Bertric or Brifardus) of Mercia, when he was regent of the kingdom
during Wistan's youth. Bertulph was his great-uncle, brother to Wiglaf.
The murder may have been because Wistan opposed the marriage of his
mother Enfleda, daughter of Celwulph, to Bertulph (believing it to be
incestuous) or simply because Wistan would eventually come of age and
reclaim power. Bertulph's son Berfert (or Brithfard), who would be
heir, invited Wiston to meet him at what is now Wistanstow (Wistow in
Leicestershire?). As the saint saluted his cousin with a kiss of peace,
Berfert cut off the upper part of his head with his sword. Then an
attendant stabbed him and three of his companions. Before the end of
the year, Bertulph
was deposed by King Ethelwolph.
Wistan was buried by his mother in Repton Abbey in Derbyshire near his
father Wigmund and grandfather. The site of a peculiarly extravagant
legend: According to Thomas of Marleberge, writing in the 12th century,
annually 'hair' grew from the ground at Wistanstow where the martyr
fell. The phenomenon was verified by a commission sent by Archbishop
Baldwin of Canterbury. In 1019, his relics were translated to the site
of his shrine at in Evesham Abbey at the request of Abbot Alfwaerd, who
later became bishop of London.
Some of Wistan miracles were suspected and verified twice. During the
lifetime of Blessed Lanfranc (f.d. May 24), Walter of Cerisy was abbot
of Evesham. He subjected Wistan's severed head to an ordeal by fire
from which it emerged unscathed.
Wistan had a popular local cultus at Shropshire and Evesham. There are
three ancient church dedications to Saint Wistan, including those at
Wistow and Wigston. (Attwater2, Benedictines, Farmer, Gill, Husenbeth).
In art, Wistan is a Saxon prince leaning on a sword. He is venerated at
St. Tegla (Thecla) of Denbighshire, Virgin
Date unknown. Tegla is the titular patron of the church and holy well at
Llandegla in Denbighshire (Benedictines).
St. Ronan of Kilmaronen, Bishop
(also known as Ruadan, Ruadhan)
Main feastday is 7 February.
Saint Ronan, a Scottish bishop of Kilmaronen, has erroneously been
identified as the Irish monk mentioned by the Venerable Bede as the
defender of the Roman calculation for the date of Easter at the Synod of
Whitby. St. Ronan's Well at Innerleithen, Peeblesshire, was popularised
by one of Sir Walter Scott's novels. According to tradition, Ronan came
into the valley and drove out the devil. This event is remembered
annually at the end of "Saint Ronan's Games" in July when a schoolboy,
given a pastoral staff, is chosen to represent the saint as he "cleeks
the devil" (Farmer).
St. Caprasius (Caprais) of Lerins, Abbot
Born in Gaul; died c. 430. Saint Caprasius retired to the island of
Lerins to live as a hermit. He wasn't alone for long. Soon he was joined
by Saint Honoratus and his elder brother Saint Venantius. Together they
travelled to the East to visit the monastic colonies there. Venantius
died in Greece; the other two returned to Lerins, where Saint Honoratus
founded the famous abbey, and on his being appointed bishop of Arles, he
was succeeded by Caprasius as abbot (Benedictines, Encyclopaedia).
These Lives are archived at: