Thursday 29 August 2019

The Decapitated Saint Chose Where He Wanted His Cornish Church To Be Built

My previous post was about the lovely church at Lanteglos-by-Fowey. The patron saint is St.Willow - sometimes shown as St.Wyllow or even St.Wylloc. 

Little seems to be known of the saint, but what is known is quite unusual, to say the least.

Like so many of the saints who passed through Cornwall he was born in Ireland. It is said that his journey was 'piloted by helpful fish' up to Pont Pill in Cornwall where he established his hermitage.

Pont Pill, photo at the top of the post, is along Cornwall's Fowey river and only a short walk from Lanteglos-by-Fowey church. It's a lovely spot.

The 'helping fish' was a little unusual, but so is the next part of St.Willow's story. Somehow he got into an argument and was slain by a man called Melyn. The name is sometimes shown as Melyn ys Kyrede which translates to Kindred of someone called Melyn. But, whatever, the saint was beheaded.

This isn't the end of the story though. St.Willow simply picked up his head and proceeded to the place where he wanted a church to be built in his honour.

His wish came true for on that spot is now the church at Lanteglos-by-Fowey.

I believe that a saint carrying his own head is known as a  cephalophore in Christian art. 

St.Willow has a feast day on the 7th of July.


  1. Fascinating story. Most places have myths and legends but Cornwall seems to have many more and, off course, they are all passed down from Celtish history. Which gives them even more interest.

    1. Always a story in Cornwall, but it's difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. I like the stories though. Thanks David.



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