Celtic and Old English Saints          3 February

* St. Ia of Cornwall
* St. Colman of Kilmacduagh (see #2)
* St. Anatolius of Salins
* St. Caellainn
* St. Werburg of Mercia
* St. Werburga of Chester

St. Ia of Cornwall, Virgin and Martyr
(Hia, Hya, Iia; Ives)
Died 6th century or 450 (sources are evenly split between the two
dates); another feast on October 27. According to the late medieval
legend, the sister of Saints Ercus (or Euny; f.d. October 31) and
Herygh, Saint Ia, was a holy maiden who came from Ireland to
Cornwall--sailing on a leaf that grew to accommodate her--and landed and
settled at the mouth of the Hayle River where Saint Ives, formerly
called Porth Ia, now stands. She is said to have crossed with Saints
Fingar, Phiala, and other missionaries (f.d. December 14). In Cornwall
she erected a cell where she lived the life of prayer and austerities.
This version relates that Ia suffered martyrdom in Cornwall at the mouth
of the Hayle River. Leland saw her "vita" at Saint Ives, which depicted
her as a noble of Saint Barricus; a church was built at her request by
Dinan, a great lord of Cornwall.
Breton tradition makes her a convert of Saint Patrick, and says that she
went to Armorica with 777 disciples, where she was
martyred. She is the eponym of Plouye, near Carhaix. Do not confuse her
with Saint Ives (f.d. April 24) of Saint Ives, Huntingdonshire
(Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, D'Arcy, Farmer, Montague,

Troparion of St Ia tone 5
Thy life and mission/ were pleasing to God, most pious Ia,/ for seeing
thee left behind in Ireland,/ He miraculously transported thee across
the sea to Cornwall on a leaf./ Wherefore O Saint, pray to God for us/
that we may never give way to despair/ but ever trust in His great

Kontakion of St Ia tone 8
By a miracle, God showed that the first should be last and the last,
first, O righteous Ia,/ and therefore we look to thee as a symbol of
Gospel truth,/ ever praising thy illustrious memory.

St. Anatolius of Salins, Bishop
(9th? or) 11th century. A Scottish or Irish bishop who went as a pilgrim
to Rome and settled as a hermit at Salins in the diocese of Besancon,
Burgundy, about 1029. He lived the rest of life in a mountain retreat
overlooking a favourite stopover of Irish pilgrims near the oratory of
Saint Symphorian. At a later date a church was built in his honour at
Salins. His biographer said that it would be impossible to enumerate all
the miracles he worked in his lifetime (Benedictines, D'Arcy, Kenney,

St. Caellainn (Caoilfionn), Virgin
6th century. An Irish saint listed in the Martyrology of Donegal. A
church in Roscommon perpetuates her name (Benedictines).

St. Werburg of Mercia
Died c. 785. When Ceolred of Mercia died, his wife Werburg retired to a
convent (Bardney?) of which she became abbess (Benedictines).

St. Werburga of Chester
(Werburg, Werebrurge, Werbyrgh)
Born at Stone, Staffordshire, England; died at Threckingham, England, c.
690-700; feast of her translation at Chester, June 21.

The patroness of Chester, England, Saint Werburga, was born of a line of
kings, being a daughter of Wulfhere, King of Mercia. From her mother,
the saintly Ermingilde (Ermenilda; f.d. February 13), she learned as a
child the Christian faith. By temperament she was pious and virtuous,
and her beauty attracted many admirers, among them a prince of the West
Saxons, who offered her rich gifts and made flattering proposals, and
also Werbode, a powerful knight of her father's court. But refusing all
her suitors, she secured, after much persuasion, her father's permission
to enter a convent (or she did so after her father's death).

When the time came, he and his courtiers escorted her in great state to
the abbey of Ely, where they were greeted at the gates by her aunt, the
royal abbess, Ethelreda (f.d. June 23), and her nuns. Werburga fell upon
her knees and asked that she might be received as a novice, and to the
chanting of the "Te Deum" they entered the cloister, where she was
stripped of her costly apparel, exchanged her coronet for a veil, and in
a rough habit began her new life.

She made good progress, and after many years, at the request of her
uncle, King Ethelred, was chosen to superintend all the convents of his
kingdom. This opened to her a large and fruitful sphere of duty, and the
religious houses under her care became models of monastic discipline.
Through the wealth and influence of her family she also founded new
convents at Trentham in Staffordshire, Hanbury near Tutbury, and Weedon
in Northamptonshire, and secured the interest of Ethelred in
establishing the collegiate Church of Saint John the Baptist in Chester,
and in giving land to Egwin (f.d. December 30) for the great abbey of

Werburga won many from dissipation and vice, and God crowned her life
with many blessings. Her work was deeply rooted in prayer and
discipline. She took but one meal daily and that only of the coarsest
food; she set before her the example of the desert fathers; and she
recited the whole of the Psalter daily upon her knees.

She lived to a ripe age, and before her death she journeyed to all her
convents, paying to each a farewell visit; she then retired to Trentham
(Threckingham in Lincolnshire), where she died. She was buried in the
monastery of Hanbury in Staffordshire. Later, her remains were
transferred with great ceremony in the presence of King Coolred and many
bishops to a costly shrine in Leicester, which attracted many pilgrims.

In 875, for fear of the Danes, her relics were removed to Chester. In
1095, they were translated within Chester, where in the course of time a
great church, now the cathedral, was built over it, and where the
remains of it may still be seen, carved with the figures of her
ancestors, the ancient kings of Mercia. On its four sides the deep
niches remain, where the pilgrims knelt, seeking healing, afterwards
receiving a metal token to show that they had visited her shrine. This
final translation was the occasion for Goselin to write her "vita." Her
magnificent shrine was in the Lady Chapel until it was despoiled in the
sixteenth century by those oddly called Reformers, and her church was
made the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin. Some of the
stones from the base of the shrine were used to make a bishop's throne,
but they were restored in 1888 and now stand on their original site
behind the high altar. Twelve ancient English churches were dedicated to
her, including Hanbury and Chester (Attwater, Benedictines,
Encyclopaedia, Farmer, Gill).

In art Saint Werburga holds the abbey, while her crown lays at her feet.
Sometimes there are wild geese near her (Roeder), because, according to
Goselin she restored one to life (see below); however, the writer
borrowed the story from his own "vita" of the Flemish Saint Amelburga
(Farmer). She is, of course, the patroness of Chester (Roeder).

William of Malmesbury writes this of a local miracle wrought by Saint

"It was in the city of Chester that the girl Werburga, daughter of
Wulfhere, King of Mercia, and Ermenilda . . . took her vows, and her
goodness shone for many years. The story of one miracle done by her I
now shall tell, which made a great stir and was long told about the

"She had a farm outside the walls, where the wild geese would come and
destroy the standing corn in the fields. The stewart in charge of the
farm took all shifts to drive them off, but with small success. And so,
when he came to wait upon his lady, he added his complaint of them to
the other tales he would tell her of the day.

"'Go,' said she, 'and shut them all into a house.' The
countryman,mbfounded at the oddness of the command, thought that his
lady was jesting: but finding her serious and insistent, went back to
the field where he had first spied the miscreants, and bade them,
speaking loud and clear, to do their lady's bidding and come after him.
Whereupon with one accord they gathered themselves into a flock, and
walking with down-bent necks after their enemy, were shut up under a
roof. On one of them, however, the rustic, with no thought of any to
accuse him, made bold to dine.

"At dawn came the maid, and after scolding the birds for pillaging other
people's property, bade them take their flight. But the winged creatures
knew that one of their company was missing; nor did they lack wit to go
circling round their lady's feet, refusing to budge further, and
complaining as best they could, to excite her compassion. She, through
God's revealing, and convinced that all this clamour was not without
cause, turned her gaze upon the steward, and divined the theft.

"She bade him gather up the bones and bring them to her. And
straightway, at a healing sign from the girl's hand, skin and flesh
began to come upon the bones, and feathers to fledge upon the skin, till
the living bird, at first with eager hop and soon upon the wing,
launched itself into the air. Nor were the others slow to follow it,
their numbers now complete, though first they made obeisance to their
lady and deliverer.

"And so the merits of this maid are told at Chester, and her miracles
extolled. Yet though she be generous and swift to answer all men's
prayers, yet most gracious is her footfall among the women and boys, who
pray as it might be to a neighbour and a woman of their own countryside"


Attwater, D. (1983). The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, 2nd edition,
revised and updated by Catherine Rachel John. New York: Penguin Books.

Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate. (1966). The Book of
Saints. NY: Thomas Y. Crowell. Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey,
Ramsgate. (1947).

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

D'Arcy, M. R. (1974). The Saints of Ireland. Saint Paul, Minnesota:
Irish American Cultural Institute. [This is probably the most useful
book to choose to own on the Irish saints. The author provides a great
deal of historical context in which to place the lives of the saints.]

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

Gill, F. C. (1958). The Glorious Company: Lives of Great Christians for
daily devotion, vol. I. London: Epworth Press.

Kenney, J. F. (1929). Sources for Early History of Ireland, vol. 1,
Ecclesiastical. New York: Columbia University Press.

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

Moran, P. Card. (1879). Irish Saints in Great Britain.

O'Hanlon, J. (1875). Lives of Irish saints, 10 vol. Dublin.

For All the Saints:

An Alphabetical Index of the Saints of the West

These Lives are archived at:

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