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* Gilbert H. DOBBLE : The saints of Cornwall.





. . . [There is little that can be said about S. Feock.] I am not even sure whether S. Feock was a man or a woman. In registers of the bishops of Exeter in the rniddle ages the saint is always a female : e.g., Sancta Feoca in Bishop Stapledon's Register, ecclesia Sancte Feoce in 1267, Sancta Feoca in 1269. But Hals, the seventeenth-century historian of Cornwall, tells us that in his time "in the glass Windows [of Feock church] is the figure of a man in priest's robes, with a radiated or shining circle about his head and face, and under his feet written S. Feock; beneath whom also in glass were painted kneeling and bending forward, by way of adoration, the figures of a man and woman, and behind them several children, out of which figurative man and woman's mouths proceeded a label with this inscription: 'Sancte Feock, ora pro bono statu S. Trewonwell et Elionorae uxoris ejus'.(1) From whence I was fully satisfied that he was indeed the tutelar guardian of this church."

I cannot help feeling that in many cases a Celtic monk, the story of whose life had been forgotten, has been supposed by the bishops' clerks at Exeter eight hundred years later to have been a woman. This was Joseph Loth's opinion. It is remarkable that nearly ail the saints of Brittany are men, not women, while in West Cornwall five very large parishes, adjacent parishes (Breage, Crowan, Wendron, Gwennap and Stithians), all now have female patrons.

Fiacc was a very common man's name in Ireland. The name "occurs twelve times in the index to O'Donovan's Annals of Ireland". There is a very interesting hymn in honour of S. Patrick, in Gaelic, containing the story of the saint's life, ascribed to "Fiacc, who was consecrated bishop of Slebte by S. Patrick", though the real date of the poem must be about 700. (2) A very well-known Irish saint with an almost identical name — Fiacre — settled in France in the seventh century. S. Faro, bishop of Meaux, gave him some land at Breuil, where he 'established a hermitage and built a guest-house for foreign travellers. These have since resulted in the existing village of Saint-Fiacre, where for centuries numbers of pilgrims have gathered in search of health. S. Fiacre was one of the most popular saints of acient France. he was invoked for the cure of a great variety of ills." (3) Many centuties later a Parisian cab-proprietor named Savage used to let out carriages at five sous the hour. Over the door of his house in the rue Saint-Martin hung a signboard with the popular S. Fiacre painted on it, and in consequence French cabs where long known as fiacres. In the old Life of S. Fiacre the saint is described as making a garden outside the monastery S. Faro had given him three miles from Meaux, and so S. Fiacre became the patron saint of gardeners, and is represented in statues in Breton churches holding a spade. One of the most beautiful chapels in Brittany is that of S. Fiacre near La Faouet with its exquisite rood-screen; and in the diocese of Vannes he is patron of a chapel at Radenac, much frequented by pilgrims. There is a Lanfiacre in the parish of Meilars near Quimper and in that ol Mahalon (the form Lanfiat is also fbund).

But although the name Fiacc, with the i pronounced as e, sounds like Feock, as the latter name is now pronounced, it is clear that S. Fiacc is not the eponym of Feock or of any other Cornish parish, The ancient pronunciation ol the e both in the name Feock and in the name of the adjacent parish of Kea was like the a in day. The name of Feock has, like St Gluvias and several other Cornish parishes, given its name to a flamily. Vague means a Feock man, (4) and this family name preserves the original pronunciation of the name of the parish of Feock. In Cornish, Welsh and Breton the same word may begin with f, v, b, or m, according to the well-known grammatical Law ol Mutations (e.g-, Llanfair, a common Welsh place-name, means the church of Mary, Mair). It is therefore significant that in Brittany we find several parishes where a S. Maeoc or Miuc is honoured. (A very large number of the patron saints of the parishes in the basin of the Fal are Breton saints — Budoc, Mylor, Perran, Kea, St Mawes, Lansioch (St Just), Philleigh, Ruan etc. It is clear that there was constant communication by water between this part of Cornwall and Brittany.)

Loth regarded Maeoc as the more correct form of the name; it is originally, he says, Magiacos — the root mag meaning "great". Mioc is only found in the French-speaking parts of Brittany. In Finistère S. Maeoc is eponym of a parish called Lanveoc, a itame which is practically identical with the Lafeage or La Feock near Feock church, and consequently Loth unhesitatingly ascribes to him the patronage of Feock. Two places where he is patron are in the diocese of Dol, and the 1769 Lectionary of Dol honoured him on November 2 as "S. Miocus, a solitary [i.e. hennit] in the diocese of Dol", and the 9th lesson at Matins on that day was as follows :

Miocus hallowed, by vigils, prayer, fasting and other good works, a thickly-wooded place [the name Coet-mieux = Mioc's wood] now situated within the borders of the diocese of Saint-Brieuc, though under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Dol. After his death, this territory gloried in possessing his name, and preserves it even to the present day. The parish church is built over his tomb. The sacred relies of the saintly hermit, which were placed under the high altar, were exhibited to the veneration of the faithful in a more easily accessible shrine by Hector, the worthy bishop of Dol, in the seventeenth century.

The church of Coet-mieux (Côtes-du-Nord) was dedicated to Saint Mieuc. A lepers' hospital formerly existed here.(5)  M. Rene Couffon tells me that "the Chronicle ofLamballe, by Jean Chapelain (Bibl. Nat., fonds franc. 22,329, fol. 693) states that during the episcopate of Mgr Hector Douvriec (1629-1664) the high altar of Coetmieux church was rebuilt, and beneath it was discovered a reliquary, consisting of a chest of pine, on which were written the words RELIQUIE STI Mioci."(6)

There was also a small monastery dedicated to this saint near Combourg, not far from Dol, mentioned in the Second Life of S. Thuriau, bishop of Dol, as monasterium Sancti Maoki, and Maokus (7) may have been a disciple of S. Samson(8). It is now called Tremeheuc (formerly tref-Mahuc). The cartulary of Redon mentions a small chapel Sancti Maioci, now called Plu-miuc. S. Mieux or Mieu is honoured at Tregomar, in Trebry, and in Saint-Trimoel (C.-du-N.), and at Plumieux (C.-du-N.) and Saint-Mayeux (C.-du-N., in 1468 Stus Maeocus) in the French-speaking zone of Brittany. In the Breton-speaking zone we find Guimaëc, on the coast near Morlaix; Lanveoc, on the Rade de Brest, in the peninsula of Crozon; Tremeoc (in the fourteenth century, Treff-maeheuc], a parish between Quimper and Pont-1'Abbe; Lanveac in Peumerit-Jaudy, Ploumagoar and Paule in the department of the Côtes-du-Nord, and Lesmaec in Locmalo (Morb.). In 1630 there was a chapel in Landeda called Saint-Tavayoc, which may be To-maioc (To being an honorific prefix).

As in Cornwall, the name Maeoc became a family name. A fîfteenth-century bishop of Rennes, Blessed Yves Mahyeuc, a Dominican, was honoured as a saint in Brittany. (9)

The churchtown farm at Feock is called La Feock (pronounced Lavague), which is a corruption of Lan-Feock (=the monastery or hermitage of Feock) and preserves the old Celtic name of the church. I see that in Bishop Stapledon's register one of his ordination candidates was called William de Lamfeocke. In the adjacent parish of Kea, Mr Henderson notes, is a place called Seviock, pronounced Sevague, "thought to have been Sen Feock" . . .


* From Cornish Saints Series, no. 10 (2nd edition, 1936). This was originally a sermon preached in Feock church on Feast Sunday, 6 February 1927, and the greater part is not directly concerned with S. Feock.

1 Trewonwell is a place in Lamorran parish, a few miles away, on the Fal; it was the residence of the De Halep family. An east window in the south transept of Lamorran church "retains some fragments of ancient stained glass, including a shield bearing the arms of De Halep, namely Or, two bendlets sable" (Parochial History of Cornwall).

2 The real author may have been Bishop Aed of Slebte.

3 L. Gougaud, Gaelic Pioneers of Christiatity (1923).

4 Hals gives Feigh, Veage and Peage as alternatives for Feock. The lane which leads from the church to La Feock running through the churchtown there is called Vague Street. There are farms in the parishes of Altarnon and Gorran called Treveague.

5 Loth, Noms des Saints Bretons, 86.

6 See also Ogee, Dict. de Bret., article Coetmieux.

7 Rivalon, a powerful seigneur in the neighbourhood of Dol, attacks and plunders the monastery of Saint Maokus. The church is burnt, with its ornaments, except the rnissal containing the holy gospels, which leaps off the altar and places itself in the hands of one of the monks. S. Turiau goes to meet Rivalon at Lan-Camfront, reproaches him with his crime, and brings him to repentance, enjoining him to repair the monastery.

8 See La Borderie, Hist. de Bretagne, vol. i, pp. 491-2.

9 See his Life in Albert Le Grand, September 20. Canon Pérennès, of Quimper Cathedral, tells me that Saint-Nic, on the Bay of Douarnenez, is pronounced Saint-Veek or Veeg. In old documents, the abbé Parcheminou tells me, Sant Nic is written Saint Mic. He says "there is a place-name in Lanveoc called Poulmic. I think that Saint-Mayeux in the Côtes-du-Nord is pronounced Sant Veg in Breton."


Sources; Bibliographie

* Gilbert H. DOBBLE : The saints of Cornwall. Part Three. Saints of the Fal. The Dean and the Chapter of Truro. Holywell Press. Oxford. 1964.

Autres sites traitant de saint Feock :

* forum du site Marikavel : Academia Celtica

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