St. Petroc was the son of a Welsh king who declined the throne on his father’s death. Petroc instead became a monk and, with sixty fellow noblemen, went to study in Ireland for twenty years.
St. Petroc returned to Wales and sailed for Cornwall. Landing at Padstow, he encountered a hermit; on requesting a drink of water and being told to find it himself, he struck the ground three times with his staff and a spring appeared. A bishop nearby called Wethenoc was more hospitable and donated his cell to Petroc. Petroc and his followers lived there for thirty years before going on pilgrimage to Rome and the Holy Land.
St. Petroc was then warned by an angel to return to Cornwall, where he drove away a huge serpent terrorising the local population. Petroc is also reputed to have healed a dragon later on which waited patiently outside his cell for days until he removed a splinter from its eye. Grateful for this small mercy, it left the area – it seems that for Celtic saints, not all situations involving dragons required that battle be joined and that they be slain!
St. Petroc then chose to live a more solitary life, probably at Little Petherick near Padstow. It was here he saved a stag being hunted by a rich ruler called Constantine and his men by hiding it beneath his cloak, Constantine’s arm suddenly going lifeless and numb. The king and his men were duly converted to the faith, and his arm was miraculously restored.
Near the end of his life Petroc moved further inland to a more solitary place where the busy market town of Bodmin is now to be found. There he met a hermit called Guron. who gave his cell over to Petroc. Guron then moved a day’s journey to the south to where the village of Gorran now stands. Petroc died at Treravel near Padstow, and was buried afterwards in Padstow.
In 981 Padstow was laid waste by Vikings, and it was probably around this time that Petroc’s bones were moved to Bodmin. In 1478 William Worcester mentions seeing Petroc’s shrine in the church there, probably in the chancel. The shrine was suppressed in the Reformation, but the ornate Arabic reliquary was later found in the 18th century, hidden in a room above the church porch, Petroc’s bones sadly missing. This reliquary and Guron’s holy well can now be seen at St Petroc’s Church, Bodmin. The reliquary was stolen in 1994, but later turned up in a field in Yorkshire, much to Cornwall’s relief.
St. Petroc – Feast day is June 4th
Almighty God, by whose grace Petroc, kindled with the fire of your love, became a burning and shining light in our nation: inflame us with the same spirit of discipline and love, that we may ever walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.