Saint Piran

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Saint Piran or Perran (traditionally in Cornwall, saints are simply named, without this title) (Cornish: Peran) is an early 6th century Cornish abbot and saint, supposedly of Irish origin.

He is the patron saint of tin-miners, and is also generally regarded as the patron saint of Cornwall, although Saint Michael and Saint Petroc also have some claim to this title. Saint Piran's Flag is a white cross on a black background. Saint Piran's Day takes place on the 5th of March.


Suggested Irish origins

Piran is the most famous of all the saints said to have come to Cornwall from Ireland. By at least the 13th century, he had become identified with the Irish Saint Ciarán of Saighir who founded the monastery at Seir-Kieran (Saighir) in County Offaly. This was due to the widely recognised ability of the P-Celtic or Brythonic letter 'P' to transform into the Q-Celtic or Gaelic letter 'C'. The 14th century 'Life of Saint Piran', probably written at Exeter Cathedral, is a complete copy of an earlier Irish life of Saint Ciarán of Saighir, with different parentage and a different ending that takes into account Piran's works in Cornwall, and especially details of his death and the movements of his Cornish shrine; thus "excising the passages which speak of his burial at Saighir" (Doble). However, there is no shrine to him in Ireland. 5 March is the traditional feast day of both Saint Ciarán of Saighir and Saint Piran, but the Calendar of Launceston Church records an alternative date of 18 November for the latter.

Views of modern scholars

  • Charles Plummer suggested that Piran might, instead, be identified with Saint Ciarán of Clonmacnoise, who founded the monastery of Clonmacnoise also in County Offaly but this is doubtful since this saint is believed to have died of yellow fever at the age of thirty-two and was traditionally buried at Clonmacnoise. His father is, however, sometimes said to have been a Cornishman.
  • Joseph Loth, moreover, has argued, on detailed philological grounds, that the two names could not possibly be identical.
  • G. H. Doble thought that Piran was a Welshman from Glamorgan, citing the lost chapel once dedicated to him in Cardiff.
  • David Nash Ford accepts the Ciarán of Clonmacnoise identification, whilst further suggesting that Piran's father in the Exeter life, Domuel, be identified with Dywel ab Erbin, a 5th century prince of Dumnonia (Devon and Cornwall).
  • The St Piran Trust has undertaken research which [1] has led them to the conclusion that Saint Piran was indeed Saint Ciarán of Saighir or perhaps a disciple, as indicated by Dr James Brennan of Kilkenny and Dr T. F. G. Dexter, whose thesis is held in the Royal Cornwall Museum.

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