Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Petroc, in French Perreuse, Abbot and Confessor

19th century stained glass window of Saint Petroc, Bodmin, Cornwall, England, artist unknownArticle

Having laid the foundation of a virtuous education in Wales, his native country, he passed into Ireland, and there spent twenty years in sacred studies, and in the most fervent exercises of devotion and penance. For his further improvement he made a pilgrimage to Rome, and returning to Cornwall, shut himself up in a monastery of which he was himself the founder, at a place since called from him Petrocs-Stow, now Padstow, which stands at the mouth of the river Alan or Camel on the Bristol Channel: it is a good sea-port, much frequented by Irish, who make up a considerable part of the inhabitants.

Bodmin, a flourishing town almost in the centre of Cornwall, about twelve miles from each of the two seas, was also illustrious for having been some time the dwelling-place of Saint Petroc, whom some distinguish from Saint Petroc of Padstow, because Dugdale calls him a bishop. But it was not uncommon in Ireland at that time, for eminent abbots to be raised to the episcopal dignity in their own monasteries by the neighbouring bishops. And Sir James Ware and Mr. Harris find, in some Irish legends, the title of bishop promiscuously used for that of abbot. At least, neither in the registers or archives of Exeter, nor in Godwin, Le Neve, or any others is his name found in the lists of the bishops of Cornwall. And all accounts in Leland and others suppose the same Saint Petroc to have retired from Padstow to Bodmin, and there founded a second monastery and a great church which king Athelstan afterwards favoured with great benefactions and singular privileges. In this place, Saint Petroc ended his mortal course about the year 564, on the 4th of June. His shrine and tomb in Leland’s time, in the reign of Henry VIII remained in the eastern part of the church of Bodmin, not far from the high altar. At Padstow he had, among others, three eminent holy disciples, Credan, Medan, and Dachan. From his numerous monastery at Bodmin, that place was anciently called Bosmana, or Bodmanachie, that is, the mansion of monks. This great church was originally served by monks: after king Athelstan’s munificent benefactions by secular clergy, and in the reign of Henry I, it became a flourishing monastery of regular canons of Saint Austin. The relics of Saint Petroc were carried privately to Saint Meen’s monastery in Brittany in 1178; but upon the complaint of Roger, prior of the regular canons at Bodmin, the king of England procured them to be brought back and restored to the great church of Bodmin the year following, where it was still standing in Leland’s time.

Saint Petroc is titular saint of a church in Nivernois in France, Bodmin, and several other churches and chapels in Cornwall, Devonshire, etc. In the calendars of some churches and monasteries of Brittany the feast of Saint Petroc is ordered to be kept of the first class with an octave.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Petroc, in French Perreuse, Abbot and Confessor”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 14 August 2017. Web. 20 September 2017. <>