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Constantine

Constantine Cornwall

The St Constantine Story

Very little, if anything, is known for certain about Saint Constantine, whose name is given to this parish, except that he was one of the few Celtic saints to be a Cornishman. Canon G.H. Doble in his Cornish Saints says that “the name has given rise altogether to one of the most fearful series of muddles in the whole history of hagiography.” Most authorities agree that he was a chieftain or prince, or possibly a king, somewhere about the fifth century A.D. The Emperor Constantine the Great, from whom the name probably stemmed, was a Roman born at York, who was converted to Christianity about the year 312 A.D. becoming the first Christian Roman Emperor.

Once Roman Britain had accepted Christianity it became a popular name. Most sources state that our saint was, at first, wild and violent and may even have committed murder, but after his conversion he put away his sword and became a monk and missionary. One legend associates him with St. Petroc and the building of his monastery at Padstow, and a few miles south of Padstow, just inland from Constantine Bay on the north coast, are the ruins, and a holy well, of the only other church in Cornwall to be dedicated to St. Constantine. Most of it has been overwhelmed by sandstorms but the font, of catacleuse stone, was removed to St. Merryn’s Church, the parish church nearby.

Similar legends in Wales, Ireland and Scotland remember Constantine as king, monk and martyr. The Feast of St. Constantine is observed on March 9th or the Sunday nearest. The name was known locally as Constenton or Constentan until recent times.

One legend claims that St. Constantine was a nephew of King Arthur to whom he bequeathed his crown when he was mortally wounded. There was a Constantine, King of Dumnonia (a kingdom which comprised Devon and Cornwall) mentioned by some early historians as living around the middle of the sixth century or earlier.