Saint of the day:
Patron Saint of tin miners and of Cornwall, UK
Saint Piran’s Story
Saint Piran’s Day is celebrated each year on 5th March as the national day of Cornwall. Saint Piran, or ‘Perran’ as he is also known, is famed for his discovery of the precious metal tin. Saint Piran is the patron saint of tin-miners and Saint Piran’s Day was originally observed as a ‘tinner’s holiday’ by the numerous tin-miners of Cornwall.
Whilst other Cornish saints have been feted as ‘the patron saint of Cornwall’, Saint Piran is most commonly associated with this accolade and the flag of Saint Piran is now also recognised as the Cornish flag. The flag shows a white cross on a black background and is said to depict the saint’s discovery of tin ‘the white metal’ flowing from the black Cornish rocks.
Whilst scholars argue as to the origins of Saint Piran and no definitive history has been agreed, many believe he was a bishop who travelled to Cornwall from Ireland in the early 6th century when he was exiled from the green isle by those who were envious of his ability to heal. Legend suggested that he was thrown to sea attached to millstone and somehow managed to sail safely to Cornwall, landing on a small beach near Newquay which was named Perran Beach in his honour. It was here that Saint Piran built his oratory – a small chapel whose remains can still be seen today, submerged in sand.
Following a revival of Celtic traditions towards the end of the 19th century, Saint Piran’s day has remained popular throughout Cornwall with marches, festivals and Cornish-themed events, such as the annual ‘Lowender Peran’ festival in the village of Perranporth, with attendees resplendent in the Cornish colours of black, white and gold. Whilst traditional Saint Piran’s Day events are not well documented, the week running up to 5 March, known as ‘Perrantide’ is said to involve the spirited consumption of both food and alcohol. The 19th century Cornish expression ‘drunk as a perraner’ certainly suggests that a good time was had by all!
Piran’s family origins are obscure; tradition says he came from Ireland. Spent his youth in south Wales where he founded a church in Cardiff. Received religious schooling at the monastery of Saint Cadog at Llancarfon, where he met Saint Finnian of Clonard. The two returned together to Ireland where Finnian founded six monasteries, including his most famous one at Clonard. Piran lived there before Saint Enda on Aran Island, and then Saint Senan on Scattery Island. He founded his own community at Clonmacnoise, “Ireland’s University”.
Cornish legend says Piran was captured in his old age by pagan Irish, jealous of his miraculous powers, especially his ability to heal. They tied a millstone around his neck, and threw him off a cliff into the sea during a storm. As Piran hit the water the storm abated and the millstone bobbed to the surface like a cork. On his stone raft, Piran sailed for Cornwall, landed at Perran Beach, built a small chapel on Penhale Sands, and made his first converts – a badger, a fox, and a bear. He lived there for years as a hermit, working miracles for the locals.
Piran founded churches at Perran-Uthno and Perran-Arworthal, a chapel at Tintagel, and a holy-well called the “Venton-Barren” at Probus. He made trips to Brittany where he worked with Saint Cai. Arthurian tradition from Geoffrey of Monmouth says he was chaplain to King Arthur, and Archbishop of York after Saint Samson was exiled by Saxon invasions, though it is doubtful he ever took up his See.
Piran’s patronage of Cornwall derives from his popularity with the Cornish tin-miners. Legend says that Piran discovered tin in Cornwall when he used a large black rock to build a fireplace, and found that the heat made a trickle of pure white metal ooze from the stone. He shared this discovery with the locals, providing the Cornish with a lucrative living. The people were so delighted that they held a sumptuous feast where the wine flowed like water. Piran was fond of the odd tipple, resulting in the Cornish phrase “As drunk as a Perraner”. The trickled of white metal upon a black background remains as the White Cross of Saint Piran on the Cornish National flag.
Piran died at his little hermitage near the beach. His relics were a great draw to pilgrims but, due to inundation by the sands, they were moved inland to the parish church of Perran-Zabulo, built to house them
Typical on this day one would eat pasties at the parade but we have pasties on Saint George's Day which is on April 23!
Venison with squash and chestnut caponata
Serves 4 (pictured above)
800g venison loin
1 teaspoon juniper berries (freshly ground)
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns (freshly ground)
For the Caponata:
4 tablespoons of ‘good’ oil
1 medium Crown Prince squash (peeled, diced and roasted)
1 red onion (sliced)
1 fennel (sliced)
125g dried cranberries (steeped in balsamic vinegar for at least 2 hours)
1 teaspoon dried chilli
2 celery stalks (sliced)
1 small handful of fresh thyme leaves
A small pinch of cinnamon
250g cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1. Rub the venison loin with the black pepper and juniper. Leave to marinade for at least a couple of hours (overnight is better).
2. For the caponata: In a hot pan add the oil, red onion, fennel, dried chilli, celery and chestnuts and sauté until golden. Add cherry tomatoes, the roasted squash, cranberries, thyme and cinnamon, then let it cook out for another five minutes or so and season to taste.
3. While the caponata is cooking char-grill your venison on a high heat for about 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on thickness. Remember venison has almost no fat so cooking it more than medium rare will dry it out.
4.To serve, slice the venison and place on top of your caponata, pour over the pan juices, and drizzle with good olive oil.