The Saints of Cornwall, by Catherine Rachel John | Literature Review


This is a compilation of all of the saints either born in Cornwall or venerated in Cornwall, from the Roman colonization period to the modern day. This book is a rare copy and I am thankful to Brigid for finding it before it started becoming priced out.

Catherine Rachel John

John studied English and Early British History at Cambridge University. On her mother’s side, she is descended from the Hayle family of engineers; and her father was a church historian and a bard of the Cornish Gorsedd.

She begins the book by talking about the Cornish landscape, specifically Mousehole which was a beach she and her mother used to go to when she was young. So, she has a very strong attachment to the land of Cornwall.


John provides the historical context behind the Cornish saints, specifically with the introduction of Christianity into Cornwall. She also gets in-depth about the building of cathedrals that would become the centers of emerging Christian communities. Eventually, the Celtic groups and the Saxons would adopt Christianity.

As for the term Celtic, John gets into detail about who it should apply to. She specifically refers to the migratory group who arrived in the British Isles and intermarried with the indigenous population. The Cornish and the Welsh belong to this category in the southwestern British category, while the Scots and the Irish represent the Celts in the north and the west.

There are also plenty of instances of the saints traveling either from or to Cornwall. There are saints that came from Wales, Brittany, or Rome in order to spread the word of God; while there are saints that traveled out of Cornwall in order to partake in pilgrimages either to Rome or to Jerusalem.

There are also various forms of Christianity that were and continue to be practiced in Cornwall. There was originally the Catholic Church, but also the Methodists and Evangelicalism. They eventually started becoming more relevant in Cornwall after 1500 AD, since Catholicism had become banned during a short span of time. Eventually, Catholics and Protestants started reconciliating in Cornwall. There are also Protestant people mentioned in the latter third of the book that are held in regard, just like the saints.

There is a special emphasis put on Saint Petroc, who had a bell which is commemorated to this day. There are also plenty of monuments, churches, and hospitals dedicated to these saints. However, a lot of them have been left to ruin.

Indeed, there are particular emphases on famous saints such as Petroc, Hugh of Lincoln, Samson, and Neot. They have more than one page dedicated to them.


Like the book by Rankine and D’Este, there are plenty of instances where the only presence of a figure is only evident by the archaeological discovery or the plaque and nothing more. And like the text, there are also speculations about whether differently named personages were actually the same person.

Writing Style

There is the occasional reference to the Cornish language in the book. Unfortunately, much of the Cornish-language texts in one of the churches were burned, with the Bodmin Manuscript being the exception. There is also the Cornish word gol, referring to the observation of holidays. The second part begins with a Cornish prayer by Saint Meryadoc and there is an brief description of the Cornish place-names. There is occasional, family-friendly humor.

Real-World Application

Although there are descriptions of these saints, there is not a lot about the attributes of their patronages, or what they are patrons of. If one were to venerate them on their feast days, then it would be important to venerate them based on the lives they led, whether they were immune from worldly pursuits or were martyred.

There is the issue of naming children, which I could imagine would be based on researching the Cornish saints. Morwenna, for instance, has become a more popular Cornish girl’s name as of late. There are a lot of saints in Cornwall who have stood by their religion either in the face of the Romans or the pagans.

It is strange how I have decided to become a pagan, and yet many of the saints were martyred by pagans. Perhaps, the fact that I include the Cornish saints as part of my path is a form of reconciliation between pagans and Christians of the past in Ynys Wen and Ynys Glas.

Recommend This To…

  • Anyone interested in the religious history of Cornwall from the Roman colonization period onwards, because there is a lot about the saints and religious figures who brought life to Cornwall.


  • John, Catherine Rachel. The Saints of Cornwall: 1500 Years of Christian Landscape. Tabb House. 2001.
  • Mythology & Religion Explained. Brigid: The Goddess Of Inspiration, Healing & Smithcraft – (Celtic/Irish Mythology Explained). YouTube. 2018.
  • Wright, Gregory. Brigid. Mythopedia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *