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Saint Mawes, Abbot and Hermit of Cornwall

 (6th century)

Source:  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/celt-saints/message/3243

A first approach to the indigenous Orthodox Saints and Martyrs of the Ancient Church who lived and who propagated the Faith in the British Isles and Ireland during the first millennium of Christianity and prior to the Great Schism is being attempted in our website  in our desire to inform our readers, who may not be aware of the history, the labours or the martyrdom of this host of Orthodox Saints of the original One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of our Lord.

"The Church in The British Isles will only begin to grow when she begins to venerate her own Saints"     (Saint Arsenios of Paros 1877)


St. Mawes - The Welsh hermit and abbot Maudetus, known in France as St. Maudez, lived the eremitical life in Cornwall, near Falmouth, where he is revered to this day. Afterwards he dwelt upon an island off the Breton coast. A monastic founder, he established monasteries and churches of the Orthodox Faith in Cornwall and in Brittany.

The lives of the 6th century Irish saints frequently contain startling elements, and that of Saint Mawes is no exception. Even his birth was remarkable. His mother was called Azenor and lived in Brittany. One day she was thrown into the sea near Brest, with only a barrel for a boat. There Mawes was born. Mother and son stayed in the cask for five months, till they were washed up alive on the coast of Ireland.

(This is the same birth story as Saint Budoc (Beuzec; f.d. December 8). Budoc's name is associated with Mawes, no doubt they were both missionary monks of Welsh origin, who founded monasteries in Cornwall and Brittany, perhaps at Dol.)

He moved from Ireland as an adult to live as a hermit near Falmouth in Cornwall, thus founding a fishing village of which he is the patron. Then, in the days of King Childbert I, Saint Mawes decided to return to the land of his mother. On his way to Brittany, he visited Devon and Cornwall, preaching outdoors and founding a town on the River Fal named after him.

Then he and his followers sailed for Brittany. Landing on an island just off the coast of France near Leon, Ile Modez (Maudez), the saint showed his skill by clearing it of vermin, setting fire to the dried vegetation to do this. He also gained a reputation as a fine teacher. Many churches in the region are dedicated to him--testifying to his influence and missionary zeal.

One reason for Saint Mawe's return to Brittany is said to have been to escape yellow fever in Ireland. He subsequently became famed for his ability to cure many kinds of sickness. After his death, the earth under which he was buried was often taken away, mixed with water and used as medicine.

The saint eventually established a monastic community on Saint Maudez Island. One day the last fire on the island was accidentally extinguished. Mawes sent a serving boy at low tide to cross to the mainland and bring back a flame. As the boy set off back, the tide came in. The waves rose higher and higher, threatening to engulf the flame; but the boy stood on a rock, prayed to Saint Mawes, and discovered the rock rising miraculously so that it never sank beneath the sea. When the tide went out again, the flame was successfully transported to Saint Maudez (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, D'Arcy, Encyclopaedia, Farmer).

In art Saint Mawes is portrayed as a schoolmaster (according to Leland). He is venerated at Falmouth and in Brittany (Roeder), where 60 churches and chapels are named after him. The relics of Saint Mawes are venerated at Quimper, Treguier, Lesneven, and Bourges (which claims his body). He is invoked against headache, worms, and snake bite (Farmer).

Troparion of St Mawes - tone 8

Despite thy royal birth thou didst embrace the monastic life in infancy,
O Father Mawes, boast of ascetics and banisher of snakes./ As we are
blessed to have thy precious relics with us to this day,/ pray O Saint,
that we may be worthy of Christ's mercy and that our souls may be saved.


Article published in English on: 2-2-2010.

Last update: 2-2-2010.