Saint of the Day – 5 March – Saint Piran (Died 480) Abbot, Hermit, Missionary, miracle-worker. Died on 5 March 480 of natural causes. Patronages – Cornwall, England, miners, Piran, Slovenia, tin miners, tinners. He is also known as Pyran, Peranus, Peran.
Piran’s family origins are obscure; tradition says he was born in Ireland but spent his youth in south Wales where he founded a Church in Cardiff. He received religious schooling at the Monastery of Saint Cadog at Llancarfon, where he met Saint Finnian of Clonard. The two returned together to Ireland where Finnian founded six Monasteries, including his most famous one at Clonard. Piran lived there before visiting Saint Enda on Aran Island and then Saint Senan on Scattery Island. He founded his own community at Clonmacnoise, known as “Ireland’s University.”
Cornish legend says Piran was captured in his middle years by pagan Irish, jealous of his miraculous powers, especially his ability to cure many illnesses. They tied a millstone around his neck and threw him off a cliff into the sea during a storm. As Piran hit the water the storm abated and the millstone bobbed to the surface like a cork. On his stone raft, Piran sailed for Cornwall, landed at Perran Beach, built a small Chapel on Penhale Sands and made his first converts – a badger, a fox and a bear. He lived there for years as a Hermit, working miracles for the locals.
Piran founded Churches at Perran-Uthno and Perran-Arworthal, a Chapel at Tintagel and a holy-well called the “Venton-Barren” at Probus. He made trips to Brittany, France, where he worked with Saint Cai. Arthurian tradition from Geoffrey of Monmouth, says he was Chaplain to King Arthur as well as being appointed as the Archbishop of York after Saint Samson was exiled by Saxon invasions, though it is doubtful he ever took up his See.
Piran’s Patronage of Cornwall derives from his popularity with the Cornish tin-miners. Legend says that Piran discovered tin in Cornwall when he used a large black rock to build a fireplace and found that the heat made a trickle of pure white metal ooze from the stone. He shared this discovery with the locals, providing the Cornish with a lucrative living. The people were so delighted that they held a sumptuous feast where the wine flowed like water. Piran was fond of the odd tipple, resulting in the Cornish phrase “As drunk as a Perraner.” The trickle of white metal upon a black background remains as the White Cross of Saint Piran on the Cornish National flag.
Piran died at his little Hermitage near the beach. His relics were a great draw to pilgrims but, due to being inundation by the sands, they were moved inland to the Parish Church of Perran-Zabulo, built to house them.
St Piran’s Day is popular in Cornwall and the term ‘Perrantide’ has been coined to describe the week prior to this day. The largest St Piran’s Day event is the pilgrimage across the dunes to St Piran’s Cross which hundreds of people attend, generally dressed in black, white and gold, and carrying the Cornish Flag and a Crucifix.
There are many Churches and even towns and villages decicated to St Piran in both Cornwall and Brittany.