Life would be boring if there wasn’t a good yarn to spin and as we say in Cornwall, this one is a ‘goodun’. A little tale about our Patron Saint of Cornwall.
From many accounts it would appear our beloved Patron Saint of Cornwall, formally the Irish saint Ciarán of Saigir, St Piran, liked his drink a little too much and yet could perform the odd miracle. The legend tells that in the 5th Century, he arrived in Cornwall in a most unceremonious manner; washed up on to our shores at Perran beach, Perranporth tied to a millstone. Having upset his last community (in Ireland) they tied him to a millstone and rolled it over the edge of a cliff in to stormy seas thinking the stone would sink and he would perish. Not so, miraculously the sea immediately became calm allowing the saint to float safely over the water pitching up on Perran Beach. It is said that his first disciples were a badger, a fox and a bear!
Having established himself as a hermit he built his chapel at Penhale Sands where his sanctity and austerity won him respect from all around, and with his apparent gift of miracles, many came to him for charitable aid. Many of his Christian converts joined him and together they founded the Abbey of Lanpiran, with Piran as Abbot.
Tin had been smelted in Cornwall since before the Roman’s arrival but over the years the method and knowledge of tin smelting has been lost. It is said that St Piran ‘rediscovered’ tin-smelting when his black hearthstone, which was a slab of tin-bearing ore, had the tin smelt out of it and rise to the top in the form of a white cross an image which became the Saint Piran’s Flag (a white cross on a black background). An image that has been used as a symbol of Cornwall ever since.
St Piran became the Patron Saint of Tin Miners and is generally regarded as the Patron Saint of Cornwall, although Saint Micheal and Saint Petroc also have claim to this title. Stories for another day….
Living until his death at the ripe old age of 206, Saint Piran is celebrated in Cornwall annually on the 5th March.