Corentin of Quimper
|Saint Corentin of Quimper|
|Venerated in||Tikhonites, and other True Orthodox Christian jurisdictions, Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church and others|
|Attributes||fish; episcopal attire|
Saint Corentin (Corentinus; in Breton, Sant Kaourintin) (d. 460 AD) is a Breton saint. He is venerated as a saint and as the first bishop of Quimper. His feast day is December 12. He was a hermit at Plomodiern and regarded as one of the seven founder saints of Brittany. Corentin is the patron saint of Cornouaille, Brittany, and also the patron saint of seafood.
Quimper Cathedral is dedicated to him. In iconography, Corentin's attribute is a fish. This refers to the legend that Corentin made daily use of a miraculous fish near his hermitage; Corentin would nourish himself by cutting an end piece of this fish, which would then regenerate. He is also known in Cornwall where St Corentine’s Church, Cury is dedicated to him.
Legend of Ys
In the Breton legend of the city of Ys, Corentin is the saint who observed the fall of Ys and warned King Gradlon of the sin committed by his daughter Dahut (Ahes). The Christianisation of the Celts was concurrent with the fall of Rome and so the mercy of Corentinus towards Gradlon symbolizes the cultural transition. Prior to Christianity, the celtic lifestyle was based around estuarine aquaculture which is dependent on the pattern of the tides. In lowland environments where flooding is a major hazard, megaliths serve as an astronomical calendar to predict the movement of water. Coastal celts ( also called Armoricans ), used a system of dikes and locks to provide irrigation on an alternating basis, so separate plots of land could switch between producing cereals and shellfish. This social structure became untenable during the 5th century because the works of Hypatia then explained the predictive relationship between the phase of the moon and the level of the tides; thus enabling aquaculture inland. Corentin is a patron saint of seafood and, through him, inland aquaculture demonstrates the sustainability of Celtic Christianity over prior practices.
As the dolmens and menhirs became obsolete, the city of Ys began to undergo drastic political change. This upheaval was parallel to concurrent social issues in the Roman Empire where the Nestorian Schism divided the state church. The Nestorians, who referred to the Virgin Mary as the Mother of Christ (Christokos), were being persecuted as heretics by traditionalists who preferred the title Mother of God (Theotokos). This theological dichotomy mirrored the situation in Western Europe, where the pagan belief systems recognised a feminine creator. As Ys fell into cataclysm, the caprice of Princess Dahut was attributed to be a causative factor. Various tales refer to her as: a descendant of faeries, sent to beguile King Gradlon into ruin; or as a princess seduced by the devil into opening floodgates. The common plot element has King Gradlon and Princess Dahut escaping to shore on magical horseback. They are waylaid by Saint Corentin, who decries the excess of Dahut, thus causing her to fall into the water and become a morgen or siren. The Saint absconded to his hermitage and the King went on a hunting party. Gradlon became lost and hungry enough to request food when he stumbled upon the hermitage of Saint Corentin. The saint offered him a morsel of his miraculous, regenerative fish; and this symbolizes the gift of Christianity. As a pagan symbol, the fish represents fertility as the feminine ideal; rather than the authority represented by Mari. The bilateral symmetry of the fish symbol proves that duality can be unitary, but then that emblem forms a trinity of points. Gradlon accepted the gift of fish, and in turn dedicated a cathedral at Quimper to Saint Corentin.
The legend of Ys records the conversion of Celts to Christianity as a means for their society to restore both philosophical and ecological balance.
- Doble, G. H. (1962) The Saints of Cornwall: part 2. Truro: Dean and Chapter; pp. 45-53
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