Corentin of Quimper
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|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 was the first bishop of Quimper. Corentin was a hermit at Plomodiern and was regarded as one of the seven founding saints of Brittany. He is the patron saint of Cornouaille, Brittany, and also the patron saint of seafood. His feast day is December 12.
In iconography Corentin's attribute is a fish, referring to the legend that he made daily use of a miraculous fish near his hermitage; he would nourish himself by cutting an end piece of the fish, which would then regenerate. Quimper Cathedral, located in the town of Quimper, France, is dedicated to Corentin. 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 Christianization of the Celts was concurrent with the fall of Rome, and so the mercy of Corentin towards Gradlon symbolized the cultural transition. Prior to Christianity, the Celtic lifestyle was based around estuarine aquaculture dependent upon the pattern of the tides. In lowland environments where flooding is a major hazard megaliths served 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, allowing separate plots of land to switch between producing cereals and shellfish. This social structure became untenable during the 5th century due to the works of Hypatia, which explained the predictive relationship between the phases of the moon and the levels 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 recognized a feminine creator.
Later tales blamed the caprice of Princess Dahut for the cataclysm at Ys. Some tales refer to her as a descendant of faeries sent to beguile King Gradlon into ruin. Others depict her as a princess seduced by the devil into opening the floodgates. The tales share a common plot point: King Gradlon and Princess Dahut escaping to shore on magical horseback where they are waylaid by Saint Corentin, who decries the excess of Dahut, causing her to fall into the water and become a morgen or siren. Saint Corentin then absconds to his hermitage while the king embarks on a hunting party. Gradlon becomes lost and hungry enough to request food when he stumbles upon Corentin's hermitage. Corentin offers the king a morsel of his miraculous, regenerative fish, symbolizing 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 and that the emblem forms a trinity of points. Gradlon accepts the gift of fish and, in turn, dedicates 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