05 Mar Saint Piran, Abbot
Today is the feast day of Saint Piran. Ora pro nobis.
Piran spent his younger days in South Wales, where he founded a church in Caer-Teim (Cardiff). He probably received his religious schooling at the monastery of St. Cadog in Llancarfon where he would have met St. Finnian. Piran’s mother being of Irish blood, the two presumably got on well and returned together to Ireland where Finnian founded some six monasteries, including his most famous one at Clonard (Meath). Piran-Ciaran lived here before moving on to live with St. Enda on Aran Island and then St. Senan on Scattery Island. He finally founded his own community at Clonmacnoise, “Ireland’s University”.
Cornish legend tells how, in old age, Piran was captured by the local pagan Irish. Jealous of his miraculous healing powers, they tied a millstone around his neck and threw him off a cliff and into the sea during an horrendous storm. As Piran hit the water, the storm abated and the millstone bobbed to the surface as though it were made of cork! With his new-found raft, Piran set sail for his homeland of Cornwall. He landed at Perran Beach, to which he gave his name, and built himself a small oratory on Penhale Sands at Perranporth, where he performed many miracles for the local people. It was excavated from the dunes during the 19th century, but has recently been reburied for its own protection. He was eventually joined by others seeking solitude and so established the Abbey of Lanpiran.
Piran founded churches at Perranuthno and Perranarworthal, 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. Here, Piran is remembered at Trézélidé, St. Peran, Loperan and Saint-Perran. Arthurian tradition, expounded by Geoffrey of Monmouth, says that he became chaplain to the great King Arthur and was made Archbishop of Ebrauc (York) after St. Samson was exiled by Saxon invasions. If so, it seems unlikely that he ever properly took up his Archiepiscopal See. Traditionally, Piran died at his little hermitage on 5th March though, as this is St. Ciaran of Saighir’s Day, his true feast day may have been the 18th November as found in the Launceston Church Calendar. His relics were a great draw to pilgrims but, due to inundation by the sand, they were eventually moved inland to where the Parish Church of Perranzabuloe (St. Piran-in-the-Sands) was built to house them. (2)
Image: A depiction of St. Piran in a stained glass window in Truro Cathedral. The window was donated by a benefactor in 1907. (3)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff