Posted by: anna | June 30, 2010

St Nectan of Harland

Today (17 June) we commemorate St. Nectan of Hartland, martyr (6th C). The icon image comes from WSIP, which does not provide any provenance information, but helpfully notes the following: ‘Also known as St. Nectaran or St. Nighton, this 6th century Saint was an Irish missionary who founded churches in Devonshire and Cornwall. His shrine at Hartland has been held in profound veneration for many centuries. According to one tradition, he perished by being beheaded by the hands of robbers. If this is so, he may more accurately be called a “Passion-Bearer” than a “Martyr” in the strictest sense.
‘The icon has this Latin inscription around the edges: “Nectane consors martirum / Ora pro nobis Dominum / Tuendo tuum populum / Et nunc et in perpetuum.” A metred translation into English is: “O Martyrs’ colleague, O Nectan, / Entreat the Lord in our behalf, / Keeping thy people safe and sound / Both now and for eternity.” ‘
 A REPUTED son of Brychan, according to the lists given by William of Worcester and Leland. His great foundation was at Hartland, Devon ; but he had other churches, at Wellcombe, where is his Holy Well, at Poundstock, where he has been displaced to make room for S. Neot, and at Ashcombe, in Devon. He had a chapel at Trethevy in Tintagel, and another at S. Winnow, which has been restored, and is still in use. Anciently there must have been one at Launceston, for a Nectan fair is there held on his day. There was also one at S. Newlyn.
The account of the Martyrdom of S. Nectan is in an extract from his Legend at Hartland, made by William of Worcester. He was fallen upon by robbers, at Nova Villa, i.e., New Stoke, where now
stands the church ; and his head was struck off. After which, he took up his head and carried it for the space of a stadium, a little over 600 feet, to the spring near which he had dwelt in his cabin, and then he placed it on a stone, which long remained dyed with his blood.
Nectan, or Nechtan, is not a Welsh name, nor even, originally, an Irish name, but is Pictish. (1 In Welsh it assumes the form Neithon, and occurs in Bede as Naiton. ) Nectan does not occur among the sons of Brychan given by the Welsh authorities.
The late Rev. R. S. Hawker, of Morwenstow, related, as a legend picked up by him there, that when Morwenna was dying, her brother Nectan came to minister to her, and she bade him bear her to the cliff, and turn her head so that with her dying eyes she might look towards Wales. But Mr. Hawker was a man of lively imagination, and the story may be merely ben trovato.
William of Worcester says that Nectan’s day is June 17. This is also Nectan’s day in the Exeter Calendar, in the Altemps Martyrology of the thirteenth century, and in a Norwich Martyrology of the fifteenth century [Cotton MS. Julius, B. vii). Curiously enough, the Irish Martyrologies give ” The Sons of Nectan ” on the same day. They are said to have been of Drumbric, but in what part of Ireland is not known, nor are their names recorded. Wilson, in his Martyrology, 1640, gives February 14, and for this he must have had some authority, as on this day a fair is held at S. Nectan’s Chapel, in S. Winnow. The feast at Hartland and at S. Winnow is on June 17.
S. Nectan’s Well is at Stoke, near Hartland Church.
A tradition exists at S. Winnow that S. Nectan lived at Coombe, a ruined farm near S. Nectan’s Chapel, and that he was martyred at Tollgate, some distance off.
S. Nighton’s (Nectan’s) Keive is a waterfall at Trethevy where was his chapel.
S. Nectan is represented on the tower of Hartland Church, and in the west panel of the Churchyard cross, as a Bishop.
Nicolas Roscarrock says : ” The Life of S. Nectane at the end of a booke very auntiently in the library of Martine Collidge in Oxford, which my learned and laborious friend Mr. Camden haveing took a briefe note of which he imparted to me, and when I importuned to gett me a coppie of the life at lardge which by report was not very longe, hee found att the second search that it was imbezled, being cutt out of the booke and carried away. … I have besides a manuscript that telleth me that the day of his feast is the 18th of May, and that he was a Martyr and buryed att the monastery of Hartland . . . and sonne to S. Brachan or Brechanus a great name of Wales, and this note following which I received off Mr. Camden my fore-named friende, and necessary I thinke to bee layde downe.” Then come the usual Life names of the children of Brechanus. The MS. was probably the same as that consulted by William of Worcester. Roscarrock adds that a bone of S. Nectan was reserved as a relic in Waltham Abbey.
texts for Commemoration of Nectan from orthodoxengland – o for an index!
Today is also the main feast day of St. Botolph, abbot and confessor, of Boston, and his brother St. Adolph (680), about whom I posted in December on the feast of their translation.
Troparion of St Nectan tone 4
O holy Father Nectan, thou didst follow the bidding of the Lord/ and didst leave thy father and mother for His sake to embrace the hermit’s life./ Faithful follower of Christ unto death pray that He may save our souls.
Holy St Nectan, pray to God for us.

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