Celtic and Old English Saints          12 March

* St. Mura McFeredach
* St. Paul Aurelian

St. Mura McFeredach, Abbot
(Muran, Murames, Muranus, Muru)
Born in Donegal, Ireland; died c. 645. Saint Mura was appointed the
first abbot of Fahan (Innisowen, County Donegal) by Saint Columba, whose
staff and little bell still exist. The crosier can be found in the Royal
Irish Academy and the bell in
the Wallace Collection in London. His cross is also preserved at Fahan
as a National Monument. He is the special patron of the O'Neill clan
and of Fahan (Benedictines, Encyclopaedia, Farmer).

St. Paul (Paulinus, Pol) Aurelian (or of Leon), Bishop
Born in Cornwall; died March 12, c. 575. The "vita" of Saint Paul was
finished in 884 by a monk of Landevennec, Brittany, named Wrmonoc. It
is one of the few of British Celtic saints written prior to the late
middle ages.

Saint Paul was a noble Briton, cousin of Saint Samson (f.d. July 28),
and his fellow-disciple under Saint Illtyd (f.d. November 6). He was
educated at Llantwit with Saints David and Gildas. We need no other
proof of his wonderful fervour and progress in virtue, and all the
exercises of a monastic life, than Illtyd's testimony, by whose advice
Paul left the monastery to embrace a more perfect eremitical life.

Some time after, our saint sailing from Cornwall, passed into Armorica,
and continued the same austere eremitical life on Caldey Island on the
coast of the Osismians, a barbarous idolatrous people in Armorica, or
Little Britain. Prayer and contemplation were his whole employment, and
bread and water his only food, except on great festivals, in which he
took with his bread a few little fish. The saint, mourning over the
blindness of he pagan inhabitants on the coast, migrated with twelve
companions to Brittany, and instructed them in the faith. Withur, count
or governor of Bas, and all that coast, seconded by king Childebert,
procured his ordination to the episcopal dignity, notwithstanding his
tears to prevent it. His see is now called after him,

Count Withur, who resided in the Isle of Bas (Ouessant), bestowed his
own house on the saint to be converted into a monastery; and St. Paul
placed in it certain fervent monks, who had accompanied him from Wales
and Cornwall. He was himself entirely taken up in his pastoral
functions, and his diligence in acquitting himself of every branch of
his obligations was equal to his apprehension of their weight. When he
had completed the conversion of that country, he resigned his bishopric
to a disciple, and retired into the isle of Batz, where he died in holy
solitude at the age of nearly 100.

During the inroads of the Normans, his relics were removed to the abbey
of Fleury, or St. Benet's on the Loire, but were lost when the
Calvinists plundered that church. The story related by Wrmonoc is full
of legendary material, but there is no doubt that Paul was a powerful
evangelist in Finistere. The "vita" incorporates some traditions of
Welsh and Celtic origin, and there are considerable traces of the saint
in Wales, where, as in Brittany, he was sometimes called Paulinus. The
ancient church at the village of Paul, near Penzance, is dedicated in
honour of Pol de Leon. His festival occurs in the ancient breviary of
Leon, on the 10th of October, perhaps the day of the translation of his
relics. For in the ancient breviary of Nantes, and most others, he is
honoured on the 12th of March (Attwater, Benedictines, Husenbeth).

Another Life:

Like the naming of Constantine, this saint reminds us of how the
influence of the Roman occupation lingered on after the legions had left
Britain. Paul was born in Genychen in East Glamorgan about the year 480
of a Romano-British family, his father Porphius being an "official of
high dignity". He was sent to be educated by St. Illtyd, first at Caldy
Island and then at the famous monastery of Llantwit Major, having David,
Sampson and Gildas among his fellow students. He learnt not only from
books but also from the manual labour in which all the community was
expected to share and included reclaiming fertile ground by banking up
the River Severn.

When he was quite young he left to set up an hermitage for himself where
he was joined by a dozen other young men who regarded him as their
leader and there he was ordained priest by St. Dyfrig. A local king
called Mark tried to persuade him to be a bishop to his people who were
of mixed race, "speaking four tongues", but he was unwilling to accept
this office and after quarrelling with the king who refused to give him
one of his seven bells he departed to Cornwall.

Paul's sister Sitafolia had established a convent near Penzance,
possibly at Newlyn, and he built himself a church in the parish which
bears his name where there are two ancient Celtic crosses, one set into
the wall of the church which boasts the second highest tower in
Cornwall. It is a tradition that his sister's community was threatened
by encroachments by the sea and that they together marked out the
tide-time with pebbles and at his prayers the pebbles grew into rocks
which prevented further erosion of the land.

After a while Paul moved on to Brittany landing on the Isle of Ouessant
at a place called Porzpol and there constructed a monastery consisting
of a small church and thirteen huts of turf and stone at a place still
called Lampol. He did not remain on the island for long but founded
another monastic centre on the mainland at Lampaul Plondalmezon where
his monks christianised some of the pagan menhirs by cutting them into

However Paul was still not satisfied and felt he needed the sanction of
the civil authority and so he went in search of the chieftain of Leon
who turned out to be a relative from Gwent, Withur, a devout Christian
then living in the Isle of Batz. When Paul arrived at his house he was
just finishing transcribing a copy of the Gospels which he gave to him
with a bell, which had been denied him by the chieftain in Wales. The
holy Abbot is believed to have delivered the island of Batz of a
monstrous serpent or dragon which had terrorised the inhabitants and a
hole in the island is still pointed out as its lair.

Withur gave Paul land on the Isle of Batz and also the ruined Roman town
of Ocismor and there he built his main foundation, which is now known as
St Pol de Leon. Withur, realising that the status of Abbot which was
recognised among the British was not acceptable to the people of Gaul,
managed to get Paul consecrated bishop by sending him on a mission to
Childebert the Frankish king and so he became the first diocesan of that
part of Brittany. With his monks the bishop began the work of
evangelising the native population who were nearly all pagan.

About the year 526 St. Paul resigned his See to his nephew Joerin and
retired to Batz where he was visited by St. Brendan. More than twenty
years later he resumed his episcopate when a change of rulers took place
after a great battle at Gerber, where he built another abbey, now called
Le Relecq because of the large number of bones of the slain. He only
remained as bishop for a short time before resigning once again and
going to Batz where he died about 580 more than a hundred years old. His
body is enshrined in the old Cathedral at St Pol de Leon where his bell
is preserved and his stole can be seen at Batz (Bowen, Baring Gould and


Attwater, D. (1983). The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, NY:
Penguin Books.

Baring-Gould& Fisher, J. The Lives of the British Saints
(4 volumes: Charles J Clarke, 1907)

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

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

Bowen, Paul. When We Were One: A Yearbook of the
Saints of the British Isles Complied from Ancient Calendars.

Encyclopaedia of Catholic Saints, March. (1966).
Philadelphia: Chilton Books.

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.

For All the Saints:

An Alphabetical Index of the Saints of the West

These Lives are archived at:

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