St Petroc and the animals

St Petroc and the animals

Petroc came to Cornwall with a mission, a mission to convert all of Cornwall to Christianity. He landed on the sands at Trebetheric, on the mouth of the River Camel, and founded a monastery at Lanwethinoc. Sometimes he felt sociable and lived with the other monks at Lanwethinoc, sometimes he craved solitude and lived as a hermit, but he always had time for God's creatures.

One day Petroc was praying in a wood, when he heard the sound of hunting horns and a struggle of animals in the bracken. A pretty, yellow-brown fawn freed itself and ran towards him. In close pursuit were four huntsmen on horseback and a pack of dogs. Then Prince Constantine himself appeared. Constantine was a warrior prince, son of one of King Arthur's knights, always waging war on other Cornish princes, and when he wasnt fighting princes he was hunting animals.

Seeing Petroc standing with the fawn, the huntsmen called off their dogs but the Prince shouted,

‘Give me back my prize and stay out of the path of the hunt.’

‘This little animal is under my protection,’ said Petroc, he held some food on his hand, for the fawn to eat. When Petroc refused to move away from the fawn, Constantine raised his war sword in anger. Petroc took a deep breath, looked Constantine in the eyes and prayed. He cast a strong spell of paralysis over the angry hunter. The prince stood frozen to the spot.

‘I will only release you Constantine, if you become a Christian and give up your fighting ways,’ said Saint Petroc.

Feeling great pain in every part of his body and unable to move, Constantine agreed. Saint Petroc released the fawn back into the wild and it ran off happy and free. Constantine joined Petroc’s monastery and lived in prayer under Petroc’s guidance for the rest of his life.

Constantine built a hermitage and well above what is now known as Constantine Bay and spent many months of the year alone there in prayer. He joined the ranks of Cornish longer Prince Constantine but Saint Constantine.

It was always raining in North Cornwall near the monastery. One day Petroc predicted the rain would stop the next day .. but the next day the rain still fell in rivers. Petroc was mortified, his power of prophesy had failed, maybe he wasn't such a good holy man anymore. He decided to go on a pilgrimage to become more holy, so he travelled to the Holy Land and then on to India. One day he was standing by the sea, it was so hot and he was dreaming of Cornish rain, when he saw a silver bowl in the water. Petroc climbed into the bowl and floated to an island. There he lived for seven years, every day eating one silver fish he caught in a pond. The fish returned every day to be eaten again.

One day the shining silvery bowl floated up on the sea again, and Petroc climbed in and sailed back to shore.

A wolf was waiting for him. It had guarded Petroc's staff and sheepskin for 7 years while the saint was on the island. The wolf stayed as Petroc's loyal companion till the end of his days.

They travelled back to Cornwall. Petroc decided it was time to move on from Lanwethinoc, and went in search of a new place to live with some of his friends. They visited St Guran in his hermitiage at Bodmin. Guran found it too crowded with visitors ~ he was a hemit after all, so he moved to the coast and found haven there, while Petroc and his friends stayed and founded Bodmin Prioiry. The first thing they did was dig a lake, for Petroc still liked fish for his dinner.

Though he moved to Bodmin Petroc is still remembered in North Cornwall. They named a town after him, a town on the opposite banks of the River Camel to his first landing place .. Petroc's place, Padstow.

retold by Anna Chorlton


‘Traditional Cornish Stories and Rhymes’   Donald Rawe

' A Book of Cornwall' Sabine Baring-Gould, 

  • Bodmin