Celtic and Old English Saints          20 June

* St. Fillan of Munster
* St. Edburga of Caistor
* St. Goban
* St. Govan of Wales
* St. Edward of England
* St. Oswald of Northumbria

St. Fillan of Munster, Missionary to Loch Earn, Scotland
(Foelan, Foellan, Foilan, Foillan, Fulan)
Early 8th century; in Ireland his feast is celebrated on January 9. (And
in some places January 19.)

The Irish Fillan, son of Feriach, grandson of King Ceallach of Leinster,
received the monastic habit in the abbey of Saint Fintan Munnu. Then he
accompanied his mother, Saint Kentigerna, and his uncle, Saint Comgan,
to Scotland, where he became a missionary monk. He was perhaps a monk at
Taghmon in Wexford and a hermit at Pittenweem, Fife, before being chosen
as abbot of the nearby monastery, which he governed for some years. He
retired to Glendochart in Perthshire, where he lived a solitary life and
built a church. There he died and was buried at the place now called
Strathfillan in his honour. Until the early 19th century, the mentally
ill were dipped into the pool here and then left all night, restrained,
in a corner of Fillan's ruined chapel. If they were found loose the next
morning, they were considered cured.

Further north, in Ross-shire, there are dedications to his memory and
that of his uncle (Kilkoan and Killellan). Both Irish and Scottish
martyrologies recorded his sanctity, and the Aberdeen Breviary relates
some extraordinary miracles performed by him.

History also records that Robert the Bruce put his hopes of victory at
Bannockburn into the hands of Saint Fillan. It is reported that he
brought an arm relic of the saint into battle having passed most of the
night praying for his intercession. Not surprisingly, the Scottish
victory at Bannockburn revived and perpetuated his cultus, and his feast
is still kept in the diocese of Dunkeld (Attwater2, Benedictines,
Coulson, Farmer, Gill,

The bell and staff of Saint Fillan still exist.
The outer covering of his staff (crosier) can be seen at

St. Edburga, Virgin of Caistor in Northamptonshire
(also known as Idaberga, Edburge, Eadburh)

Died late 7th century. It is odd that a pagan, King Penda of Mercia,
should have born so much fruit for the Kingdom of God. He was a staunch
opponent of Christ, yet four of his daughters, including Edburga, rank
among those in the heavenly court. Her sisters by blood and faith were
Saints Kyneburga (wife of King Alfred of Northumberland), and Kyneswide
and Chinesdre, who consecrated their virginity to God when they entered
the convent of Dormundcastor or Caistor in Northamptonshire. Edburga
also seems to have made her vows and was buried there.

When her brother Wulhere finished Peterborough, her relics with those of
her three sisters were translated to the new foundation. About 1040, the
monk Balger carried all their relics and some of those of Saint Oswald
to Berg Saint Winnoc in
Flanders, probably by the authority of King Hardecanute of England, son
of Emma, who had lived in Flanders in his youth. The relics of Saints
Oswald, Edburga, and Lewin were lost in a great fire at the abbey in
1558. Yet an inscription there informs us that some of their dust still
remains in the tomb (Benedictines,Husenbeth).

St. Goban (Gobain, Govan, Gavan), Martyr
Born in Ireland; died c. 670. Goban was ordained priest in his native
land. Then he became a monk under and disciple of Saint Fursey at Burgh
Castle in Suffolk. He accompanied his abbot on his mission to evangelize
East Anglia. Both saints then crossed to France. For a short time Goban
lived at Corbeny, before the abbey was built, and later they settled
together as hermits at Laon. From there they withdrew into the forest on
the Oise. There Goban founded a stately church dedicated to Saint Peter,
now called Saint Gobain, on land given to him by King Clotaire III. Here
Goban was beheaded by thieves at a place now called Saint-Gobain and
previously known as Le Mont d'Hermitage. His relics were lost during the
Thirty Years War, except for his head which is still in his church
(Benedictines, Encyclopaedia, Farmer, Husenbeth). He is venerated in
Burgh (Suffolk) and Saint Goban (Oise) (Roeder).

St. Govan of Wales
(Goven, Cofen)

6th cent. A hermit who lived halfway down a cliff at St Govan's Head in
Dyfed in Wales where his stone hut can still be seen. He is probably buried
under the altar in the hut, which later became a small chapel. Govan was
probably a disciple of St Ailbe.

A Pilgrimage to Saint Govan's Chapel


St Govan's Head - St Govan's Chapel

On St Govan's Head, near Bosherton. St. Govan's Chapel is a small medieval
church clinging to the ragged rock halfway down the cliffs of a secluded
headland. It is difficult to imagine a more strikingly situated church in
all of Britain. St. Govan was a sixth century hermit who established a cell
for himself on this lonely spot, in the fashion of early Celtic Christian
monks, who tended to live in isolated places. Legends sprang up about the
saint, and about the curative properties of the natural spring which used to
rise just inside the door of the chapel.
During the medieval period the holy well and cell became a place of
pilgrimage for cripples seeking a cure, and the original cell was rebuilt as
a small chapel in the 13th century. The chapel is a very simple rectangular
building with a steeply pitched roof and bellcote. Access is by way of 52
stone steps from the top of the cliffs.

Legend has it that the chapel was founded when St. Govan hid in a rocky
fissure of the cliff to escape from pirates. A further legend states that
King Arthur's knight Sir Gawain lies buried beneath the stone altar of the

St. Govan's Chapel is contained within the Pembrokeshire National Park, and
the Pembrokeshire Coast National Trail runs along the nearby cliffs. The
area is far enough off the beaten track that even today it retains an air of
secluded beauty.

Elevation of the Relics of St. Edward,
King and Martyr of England
THIS Edward was chosen, being only thirteen years old, to succeed his
father Edgar A.D. 975, before which time the West Saxon kingdom had
grown into that of the English generally. He appears to have been a
good young king, and beloved by his people. After a four years' reign
he was cruelly murdered, probably by the contrivance of his stepmother
AElfthryth [Elfrida], whose son Ethelred was then elected king at the
age of ten. The English Chronicles under the year 987 lament the crime
without naming the criminal. "Here was Eadweard king slain at eventide
at Corfes-gate, on xv. kal. Apr., and men buried him at Waerham without
any kingly worship. Never was done worse deed among Englishmen that
this since first they sought Britain. Men murdered him, but God
honoured him. He was in life an earthly king, he is not after death a
heavenly saint," etc... The Sarum Breviary dwells much on his goodness,
and he was popularly considered to have died a martyr... Under the year
980 the Chronicles say, "Here in this year S. Dunstanus and AElfere
ealdorman fetched the holy king S. Eadward's body at Waerham, and
carried it with mickle worship to Scaeftesbryig" [Shaftesbury].
Florence of Worcester [anno 979] says that the body was incorrupt

Service to St Edward
(under Liturgica, right-hand column)

Icons of St. Edward

Translation of the Relics of St. Oswald,
Missionary and Martyred King of Northumbria


Attwater, D. (1958). A Dictionary of Saints. New York:
P. J. Kenedy & Sons. [Attwater 2]

Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.

Blunt, J.H. (1893) Annotated Book of Common Prayer.

Coulson, J. (ed.). (1960). The Saints: A Concise Biographical
Dictionary. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Green & Co.

Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Husenbeth, Rev. F. C., DD, VG (ed.). (1928). Butler's
Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints.
London: Virtue & Co.

Montague, H. P. (1981). The Saints and Martyrs of Ireland.
Guildford: Billing & Sons.

Roeder, H. (1956). Saints and Their Attributes, Chicago: Henry

For All the Saints:

An Alphabetical Index of the Saints of the West

These Lives are archived at:


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