Happy St Piran’s Day to our members up and down Cornwall.
St Piran is the patron saint of tin-miners, and the national saint of Cornwall. He was probably born in Ireland and raised on the island of Cape Clear off the coast County Cork, by his father Lughaidh and mother Liedania. He studied the scripture in Rome, returned to Ireland and became a bishop at his monastic settlement Saighir Kieran in County Ossary. In truth, virtually nothing exists in literature about him, so most written today is conjecture.
St Piran appears to have sailed to Cornwall, and landed on Perran Brach, where he built his tiny St Piran’s Oratory, in the Irish style with the heads of a man, a woman and a beast around the arched doorway The priest’s house is built inside the graveyard as in Ireland.
Although little can be said for certain about St Piran, it is not thought that he is the same man as St Kieran of Clonmacnoise who is recorded to have died at the age of 32 and is buried at his monastery in Ireland.
There is a strange legend about St Piran being tied to a mill-stone in Ireland because the local people were jealous of his miraculous healing powers, rolled it over the edge of a cliff into a stormy sea, which immediately became calm, the mill-stone miraculously floated, and St Piran was able to sail to Cornwall on it.
Another legend is that St. Piran “rediscovered” tin-smelting when his black hearthstone, which contained tin-bearing ore, got hot enough for the tin to melt out. The white liquid tin rose up to form a white cross on the black background, which became his emblem. He shared this knowledge with the local people and thus provided them with work. They held a feast in Piran’s honour where the wine ran like water.
Piran founded churches at Perran-Uthno and Perran-Arworthal, and a chapel at Tintagel. His holy-well, the “Venton-Barren” was at Probus. He probably also made trips to Brittany where he became an associate of St Cai. In Brittany, Piran is remembered at Trézélidé, St Peran, Loperan and Saint-Perran.
Traditionally, Piran died at his little hermitage on 5th March. His relics were a great draw to pilgrims but, due to the Oratory eventually being overcome by shifting , they were eventually moved inland to the parish church.
The small chapel dedicated to St Piran circa 450AD, was excavated in 1835 and it was claimed to be the oldest extant building of worship on mainland Britain, second only to Iona Abbey. It has now been reburied, to protect it, and all that marks the spot is a stone with the words ‘St Piran’.