Posted by: anna | October 14, 2010

St Melorius of Cornwall

Today (1 October) is the Feast of the Pokrov, the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God. In the calendar of British saints, we commemorate St. Melorius (Melor, Méloir, Mylor, Meglor) of Cornwall. From Baring-Gould:
Melor, son of Melyan, prince of Cornwall, is not to be mistaken for Meilyr, brother of S. Maelrys, who is commemorated on January 1.
The story of S. Melor is involved in difficulties, partly because his legend is replete with fables, next because it contains anachronisms, and lastly, because the scene of his adventures is regarded as either Cornwall or Cornouaille, and his place of martyrdom is claimed to be at both S. Mylor in the former, and at Lanmeur in the latter.
Sweeping aside all the fabulous matter in the legend, we come to those particulars which are historical. Melor was the son of Melyan, prince of Cornwall or of Cornouaille, probably of both. Melyan was the son of Budic, and his brother, Tewdric, was prince of Western Cornwall, where he made himself notorious through his opposition to a settlement of Irish immigrants in Penwith ; he went so far as to kill some of them, Fingar and Piala. The brother of Melyan was Hoel I., cousin of King Arthur, who had been sent by Arthur to rule as prince in Brittany. Hoel, called in the legend Rhiwal, that is to say, the Lord Hoel, finding Melyan in the way, murdered him in 538, and sought to destroy also his nephew Melor, who, however, fled to the abbey of S. Corentin to escape him. Here comes in the anachronism. In the legend it is Corentin who affords him shelter. But that is impossible, as Corentin died in 453 ; and all we can admit is, that he was for a while sheltered by the successor of S. Corentin. There may be some truth in the story that Melor was mutilated by Hoel, and this mutilation of hand and foot was designed to incapacitate him from becoming a candidate for the chieftainship. But when, in spite of this, a party was formed to support Melor, then Hoel proceeded to extremities and had him assassinated.
With regard to Melyan the father, the traces of his having been in Cornwall are many. Not only are S. Mellion and Mullion churches dedicated to him, but also near Par are Lan Mellion and Merthan close together, indicative of an ancient martyrium and a church dedicated to the saint. In S. Tudy is another Lan Mellion, another at Liskeard, and there are other less distinct traces of his foundations. That he was a prince in Cornwall, therefore, I can hardly doubt. But that Melor fled to Brittany from Hoel, who was now in Britain and then in Armorica, is most probable. It is true that in Cornwall is the church of Mylor dedicated to him, and believed to occupy the site of his martyrdom, but it may be only a commemorative church. The adjoining parish is S. Mabe, i.e. the Holy Son, and it is possible that the original church at Mylor may have been a foundation of S. Melyan, and that the adjoining church was known as that of the Saintly Son ; but that gradually the greater fame of the boy eclipsed that of his father, and his name was transferred to his father’s foundation. This, however, is mere conjecture. Linkinhorne is dedicated to S. Melor, so also is Thornbury, in Dorsetshire. His relics were held to be enshrined at Amesbury. All this points to a very close relation with the south-west, and to the story having taken a lively hold of the Britons there, which could hardly have happened unless he had been related intimately to the reigning house.
In the Legendarium of Bishop Grandisson of Exeter, 1366, is the story. It begins : ” S. Melor, son of Meliar, King of Cornwall, lost his father when he was seven years old. His mother was in Devon (in Devonia regione), Aurilla by name, of the race of Rivold.” There is a doubt as to the exact relationship of Rivold and Melian. On the strength of a statement in a fragmentary Life, published in the Analecta Bollandiana (T. v. p. 165), that Melor’s mother was daughter of Judoc, Count of Domnonia, he has been moved to a date but little before 710. But Aurelia cannot have been a daughter of S. Judoc, who was never married. Judoc may be a misreading for Budoc.
In Brittany tradition attaches to every stage of the flight of Melor from his uncle. His estates are said to have been at Lanmeur, between Lannion and Morlaix, in Domnonia. Between Carhaix and Lanmeur, according to the legend, when he was pursued, the earth sank and formed a hollow, in which he concealed himself. This is still shown, and called Guele San Velar, or the Bed of S. Melor. A chapel was built over the spot. Thence he pushed on in the direction of Boiseon, but was overtaken by night and took refuge at a farm in Plouigneau, now called Gouer Velar, or the rivulet of Melor. On leaving the farm next morning, without his breakfast, he ascended a hill and fainted from exhaustion, where now stands a small chapel dedicated to him at Coal-sao-bell (the Wood of the Long Ascent). Thence he pushed on to Boiseon. There Rivold came and carried him off to Lanmeur, where he stabbed him at a spot near the parish church, which is pointed out as the scene of the murder. Indeed, even a room in the old wooden house is called Cambr-ar-Sant, or the Chamber of the Saint. Tradition is so minute in its particulars relative to the localities, that it is difficult to doubt that S. Melor belongs to Brittany and not to Cornwall.
In Brittany the feast of S. Melor is on October 3, and not in January, and the form assumed by his name is Meleuc, which is a corruption of Melur-oc. In Bishop Grandisson’s Exeter Calendar the feast is on October i.

William of Malmesbury said of the story of Melor, in the twelfth century, “Incertum,” and so it is still as to its details; but there can be little question as to the substantial truth of the story, that he and his father were the victims of a family contest for supremacy, such as was common in all times among the Celtic chiefs, where the law of subdivision of authority and land provoked these fratricidal crimes.

one version from celt-saints

Troparion of holy Martyr Melor Tone 4

Jealousy and spite were thy enemies,/ O righteous Melor,/ yet despite poison and mutilation thou didst not waver in the faith,/ and wast found worthy to wear the crown of martyrdom./ Pray, O holy one, that following thy example,/ we may withstand the assaults of the enemy/ and finally attain eternal salvation.

A propos of last year’s post about St Bavo, herewith M L-G’s troparion:

Ton 1 Tropaire à saint Bavon, ermite à Gand, (natalice en 659 A.D.)

Notable au pays de Liège en Gaule Belgique,*
Longtemps tu menas une vie peu édifiante,*
Mais lorsque ton épouse naquit dans le Ciel,*
Sous l’influence de saint Amand, tu vécus,*
Dans la prière, dans l’ascèse et dans le jeûne.*
Saint Bavon intercède pour notre salut!

Notable in the country of Liège in Belgian Gaul,
You lived for a long time an unedifying life.
But when your wife was born into heaven,
You lived, under the influence of St Amand,
In prayer, asceticism and fasting.

Holy Bavo, intercede for our salvation!
Holy St Melor, holy St Bavo, pray to God for us.

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