St Piran Still Speaks

Report Cornish Association of Victoria Meeting 15 Feb 2014.

With St Valentine’s Day behind us and St Piran’s Day before us our meeting on 15 February focused on the legend of St Piran. Rev Ted Curnow marked the quiet rebirth of interest in Cornish culture over recent years by referring to the re-use of Cornish language, the rebirth of the Gorsedd, the popularity of the flag as a national banner, the commemoration of St Piran’s day (5 March), the growing use of the kilt and tartan, and the rebirth of interest in hagiography—the study of the Saints.

Today St Piran, the Saint of tinners it was said stands as an icon of Cornish culture and has been popularised to a place that rivals St Petroc and St Michael who have also laid claim to the title of Patron Saint of Cornwall.

Bits and pieces of myth, legend and history were woven together with pictures of the annual pilgrimage through the Perranporth Towans to the original site of St Piran’s Oratory. Having mutated over time, the site was covered over with sand in order to preserve it in 1900 and 1980. The site, tucked away in a remote spot in the sand hills, is arguably the earliest remaining site of Christianity in Britain today. Now after 10 years of negotiation it is being re-excavated by the St Piran Trust. There is evidence that points to a sizable community during the medieval period that could have been similar to that of the St Columba Community at Iona.

Ted referred to the miracles attributed to St Piran but behind the scenes our Vice President Beryl worked a little miracle of her own. At the last moment the resident projector suspended from the ceiling failed to function. Following a desperate phone call to solve the problem our own projector and stand was unearthed. Thankfully the presentation continued without a hitch.

A medieval yarn that usually receives more attention than it deserves says St Piran met his end when drunk by falling down a well. Years ago a Rev Whittaker claimed that depending on legend can ‘denigrate sanctity.’ In a strong rebuff he is said to have written, “The stupidity of the drunken tinners has shaped their Saint agreeably with their own practices and transformed that Holy hermit, that venerable Bishop, that Primary Apostle of Ireland into a wretched drunkard like themselves.”

 Although applying insights from the story of St Piran was not the main purpose of the presentation, in a surprising way it was obvious that St Piran of the past could still speak into the contemporary world of today.




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