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Saint Winwaloe
Saint Guénolé (d'après le buste en argent du reliquaire de Locquénolé).jpg
Portrait of a silver bust of Saint Guénolé, 1901
Died 3 March, 532
Landévennec Abbey
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church
Feast 3 March
Patronage invoked for fertility

Saint Winwaloe (Breton: Gwenole; French: Guénolé; Latin: Winwallus or Winwalœus; c. 460 – 3 March 532) was the founder and first abbot of Landévennec Abbey (literally "Lann of Venec"), also known as the Monastery of Winwaloe. It was just south of Brest in Brittany, now part of France.


St Winwaloe's Church, Gunwalloe

Winwaloe was the son of Fragan, a prince of Dumnonia, and his wife Gwen the Three-Breasted, who had fled to Brittany to avoid the plague.[1]

Winwaloe was born about 460, apparently at Plouguin, near Saint-Pabu,[citation needed] where his supposed place of birth, a feudal hillock, can still be seen. Winaloe grew up in Ploufragan near Saint-Brieuc with his brothers, Wethoc and Jacut.[citation needed] They were later joined by a sister, Creirwy. He was educated by Budoc of Dol on Lavret island in the Bréhat archipelago near Paimpol.

As a young man Winwaloe conceived a wish to visit Ireland to see the remains of Saint Patrick, who had just died. However, the saint appeared to him in a dream to say that it would be better to remain in Brittany and found an abbey. So, with eleven of Budoc's other disciples, he set up a small monastery on the Île de Tibidy, at the mouth of the Faou. However, it was so inhospitable that after three years, he miraculously opened a passage through the sea to found another abbey on the opposite bank of the Landévennec estuary.

Winwaloe died at his monastery on 3 March 532.


The feet of a statue of Saint Guénolé, in a chapel at Prigny (Loire-Atlantique), are pierced with needles by local girls who hope to find their soulmates in this way.

Winwaloe was venerated as a saint at Landévennec until Viking invasions in 914 forced the monks to flee, with his body, to Château-du-Loir and then Montreuil-sur-Mer. His relics were often taken on procession through the town.

Winwaloe's shrine was destroyed during the French Revolution in 1793.

He apparently acquired a priapic reputation through confusion of his name with the word gignere (French engendrer, "to beget") and was thus a patron of fertility as one of the phallic saints.[2] He is also the patron of Saint-Guénolé, Finisterre.

In his Cornish homeland, Winwaloe is the patron of the churches at Tremaine, St. Wynwallow's Church, Landewednack, Gunwalloe and Poundstock as well as East Portlemouth in Devon and two lost chapels in Wales. His feast day is April 28 and Gunwalloe feast is celebrated on the last Sunday of April.[3] The churches of St Twynnells, near Pembroke, Pembrokeshire and Wonastow, Monmouthshire may have been originally dedicated to him.[4] They were probably founded by his successor at Landévennec, Saint Guenäel, who certainly made trips to Britain. Exeter, Glastonbury, Abingdon and Waltham held small relics. He was also popular in East Anglia where the abbey at Montreuil-sur-Mer had a daughter house.

St. Winwaloe Priory in Norfolk was dedicated to him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vita Sancti Wingualoei, by Wrdestin (Vurdestinus) (9th century) in Gilbert H. Doble's The Saints of Cornwall; Part 2: Saints of the Lizard District. Truro: Dean and Chapter; pp. 61-92
  2. ^ The Minor Themes
  3. ^ Cornish Church Guide (1925) Truro: Blackford; p. 11
  4. ^ Bowen, E. G. (1969) Saints, Seaways and Settlements. Cardiff: University of Wales Press ISBN 0-7083-0650-0 (2nd ed. 1977), p. 189

Main source[edit]

  • Doble, Gilbert H. (1962). The Saints of Cornwall Part II. Truro: Dean and Chapter of Truro. pp. 59–108. 

External links[edit]