Calendar of Scottish Saints – Saint Servan or Serf, Bishop

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6th or 8th century. Much that is legendary has become mixed up with the history of this saint, and it is difficult to fix upon what is authentic.

He founded a monastery at Culross, Fifeshire, where he lived in great veneration on account of his virtues and miracles. He is said to have befriended the mother of S. Kentigern when she was cast on the shore near his dwelling, and to have baptised and educated her child. A very ancient life of Saint Serf, however, places him a century later than Saint Kentigern, and makes him contemporary with Saint Adamnan.

On account of the many difficulties presented by conflicting traditions, it has been suggested that two saints of the same name have lived at Culross in different centuries.

Saint Serf died at Culross in extreme old age, and was buried there. Within the grounds belonging to Lord Rosslyn at Dysart is pointed out the cave where the saint is said to have encountered and overcome the devil. The name Dysart (desert), which marked his place of retreat, became afterwards extended to the town which grew up there. The cave of the saint became a favourite place of pilgrimage.

The churches of Monzievaird-Perthshire, and Alva-Stirlingshire, were dedicated to this saint, and at each place is a well called by his name. Another well of his called “St. Shear’s Well” exists at Dumbarton. All three were considered miraculous. Saint Serf’s Fairs were formerly held at Culross, Abercorn (Linlithgowshire) and Aberlednock (Perthshire).

At Culross a custom prevailed from time immemorial for the young men to perambulate the streets in procession, carrying green boughs, on the 1st of July each year. The Town Cross was decorated with garlands and ribbons, and the procession would pass several times round it before disbanding to spend the day in amusements. This was doubtless the remains of a procession in honour of the saint. At the accession of George III. the population, being strong Hanoverians, began to celebrate that King’s birthday on June 4th, and to avoid too many public holidays, the procession of July 1st, the signification of which has become lost, was transferred to the King’s birthday. It survived the accession of Queen Victoria, but has now probably fallen into disuse.

MLA Citation

  • Father Michael Barrett, OSB. “Saint Servan or Serf, Bishop”. The Calendar of Scottish Saints, 1919. CatholicSaints.Info. 9 June 2014. Web. 21 October 2017. <>