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Saint Petroc

Saint Petroc
Abbot of Lanwethinoc
Born Wales
Died c. 564
Treravel, Padstow, Cornwall, England
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, Eastern Orthodox Church
Canonized Pre-Congregation
Major shrine St Petroc's Church, Bodmin, Cornwall, England
Feast 4 June
Attributes Wolf, Stag, Church
Patronage Devon

Saint Petroc or Petrock (Medieval Latin: Petrocus; Welsh: Pedrog; French: Perreux; died c. 564) was a British prince and Christian saint.

Probably born in South Wales, he primarily ministered to the Britons of Devon (Dewnans) and Cornwall (Kernow), where he is associated with a monastery at Padstow, which is named after him (Pedroc-stowe, or 'Petrock's Place').[1] Padstow appears to have been his earliest major cult centre, but Bodmin became the major centre for his veneration when his relics were moved to the monastery there in the later ninth century.[2] Bodmin monastery became one of the wealthiest Cornish foundations by the eleventh century.[3] There is a second ancient dedication to him nearby at Little Petherick or "Saint Petroc Minor".

In Devon ancient dedications total a probable seventeen (plus Timberscombe just over the border in Somerset), mostly coastal and including one within the old Roman walls of Exeter as well as the villages of Petrockstowe and Newton St Petroc. In Wales his name is commemorated at St Petrox near Pembroke, Ferwig near Cardigan and Llanbedrog on the Lleyn peninsula. He also became a popular saint in Brittany by the end of the tenth century.


  • Life 1
  • Veneration 2
  • Modern uses 3
  • References 4
  • Sources 5
  • See also 6
  • Further reading 7


The earliest Life of Petroc states that he was the son of an unnamed Welsh king: the twelfth century version known as the Gotha Life, written at Bodmin, identifies that king as Glywys of Glywysing (Orme 2000, p. 215) and Petroc as a brother of Gwynllyw and uncle of Cadoc.

Detail of stained glass window at Bodmin showing St Petroc

He studied in Ireland,[4] where later he is said to have been the teacher of Saint Kevin.

For his further improvement he made a pilgrimage to Rome, and returning to Cornwall, shut himself up in a monastery of which he was himself the founder, at a place since called from him Petrocs-Stow, now Padstow, which stands at the mouth of the river Camel on the North Cornish Coast. All accounts indicate that Petroc retired from Padstow to Bodmin, and there founded a second monastery and a great church which King Athelstan afterwards favoured with great benefactions and singular privileges.[5]

Petroc founded churches in Little Petherick and Bodmin and in many parts of Britain, Wales and Brittany. He is said to have converted Constantine of Cornwall to Christianity by saving a deer Constantine was hunting.[4] After thirty years, legend says that he went on the pilgrimage to Rome by way of Brittany. The place of his death was reputedly at a house belonging to a family named Rovel, thought to be a farm now called Treravel near Little Petherick.[6]


With Saint Piran and Saint Michael, he is one of the patron saints of Cornwall.[7] He was described by Thomas Fuller as "the captain of Cornish saints".[8]

The legendary tales surrounding Petroc are exceptionally vivid and imaginative (giving him a second pilgrimage, travels to India, taming wolves) and may represent interpolation from pagan tales. In iconography, like several other British saints, Petroc is usually shown with a stag. His feast day is 4 June.

In 936, King Athelstan of England annexed Cornwall and granted privilege of sanctuary to Padstow, there only being two other churches in Cornwall with this privilege.[4]

His major shrine was always at St Petroc's Church, Bodmin. In 1177, a Breton stole his relics from Bodmin and gave them to the Abbey of St Meen. However, Henry II restored them and, though the relics were thrown out during the English Reformation, their beautiful ivory casket is still on public display at St. Petroc's in Bodmin.[4] His remains were reputed to have ended in the bay of Hailemouth near Padstow.[9]

The flag of Devon is dedicated to Saint Petroc

Modern uses

  • The Flag of Devon is dedicated to Saint Petroc. This flag, designed by Ryan Sealey, was the winner of a competition organised by the BBC in 2003, and represents the traditional county. It has been used by residents, and since October 2006 by Devon County Council.
  • The merger of North and East Devon Colleges led to them being re-branded under the name Petroc.[10]


  1. ^ Mills, A. D. A Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford University Press. 1991
  2. ^ Jankulak 2000, p. 66
  3. ^ Stacey 2002
  4. ^ a b c d "The Story of St. Petroc", St. Petroc's, Padstow
  5. ^ Butler, Alban. "The Lives of the Saints", Vol.VI, 1866
  6. ^ Jankulak, Karen (2000). The Medieval Cult of St Petroc. Boydell Press. p. 10.  
  7. ^ The cult of St Michael was largely due to the Norman Earls of Cornwall, while that of St Petroc was the most important in the Diocese of Cornwall since he was the founder of the monastery of Bodmin, the most important in the diocese and, with St Germans, the seat of the bishops. He was the patron of the diocese and of Bodmin: Caroline Brett, ‘Petroc (fl. 6th cent.)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 16 Dec 2008
  8. ^ Cross, F. L., ed. (1959) The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. London: Oxford University Press; p. 1058
  9. ^ Challoner, Richard. A memorial of ancient British piety: or, a British martyrology. Giving a short account of all such Britons as have been honoured of old amongst the saints, p. 187. W. Needham, 1761. Accessed 13 March 2013.
  10. ^ Petroc College


  • Doble, G. H. (1938) Saint Petrock, a Cornish Saint; 3rd ed. [Wendron: the author]
  • Doble, G. H. (1965) The Saints of Cornwall: part 4. Truro: Dean and Chapter; pp. 132–166
  • Jankulak, Karen (2000) The Medieval Cult of St. Petroc Boydell Press (19 Oct 2000) ISBN 978-0-85115-777-1
  • Orme, Nicholas (2000) The Saints of Cornwall Oxford: U. P. (6 Jan 2000) ISBN 978-0-19-820765-8
  • Stacey, Robin Chapman, review of Karen Jankulak. "The Medieval Cult of St. Petroc" Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, Vol. 34, No. 1 (Spring, 2002), pp. 180–181

See also

Further reading

  • Brett, Caroline (2004). . 6th cent.)"fl"Petroc (. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. 
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