10 February 2023

Truro and Treguier

I warmly commended recently Sacrament an Alter, a fine recent edition of a catena of Patristic texts concerning the Most Holy Eucharist. D H Frost has been working on this teext for more than two decades; here we have the ripe fruits of his scholarship.

Parts of this work have, over those years, appeared, notably in Cornish Studies (e.g. 2003; 2007). I will refer today to one such episode; related by Frost in 2007 and repeated in his new publication. 

Fr Thomas Stephyn, Vicar of nearby St Newlyn, was involved in a most diverting fracas in the port of Truro in 1537. An agent of the Tudor regime, Alexander Carvanell, heard about a ship called the Maudelyn which, with Fr Stephyn and two other priests and a few dozen laity, was about to set sail for the Pardon** (patronal festival) in Treguier (Lantregar) Brittany, "faynyng a poope holly pilgrymage". The pious miscreants refused to allow the Tudor employees to board the ship; Carvanell and two assistants were at first thrown overboard. 

They persisted, and eventually the ship sailed off with the three government men as captives on board. Five miles out from Falmouth, the two lackies were put in a boat to row ashore, but Carvonell himself was carried all the way to Brittany. The pope holy pilgrims amused themselves by threatening to tow him behind the ship at the end of a rope. The fun continued in Treguier; the Cornishmen explained to their Breton cousins the status of Carvonell, and the more devout among those who had gathered for the Pardon duffed him up beautifully in the streets of Treguier, "shuldryng and buffeting him as though he had bene a turke or a Sarzin". But he survived to get home and to report to the Council.

Perhaps Fr Stephyn's subsequent disappearance from the records means that he went into the Catholic underground. Perhaps Sacrament an Alter went with him; in 1564 Fr Tregear, incidentally, was involved in passing on, presumably among those clergy whom he knew would make sympathetic use of them, books bequeathed by a traditionalist priest. Who knows; perhaps the volume of 'homilies' to which Sacrament had become attached spent some time, not very far away from St Allen and St Newlyn, in the Lanhearne residence of the Arundell family. They suffered in the aftermath of the 1549 rebellion; a house where the Blessed Sacrament never ceased to be reserved even during the darkest days - and where now the admirable Carmelites, formerly Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, pray the Old Rites. 

There are little details in these narratives that make me want to know more ... surely, the episode demands more treatment in its own right. What, in 1537, did Tudor lackies expect or wish to find in a ship headed for for Treguier? Why might they wish to prevent sound Cornish Catholics from attending a Pardon there (the English Reformatin had hardly by then entered its ideologically Protestant phase). What did Cornishmen know about Turks and Saracens? Were the Corsairs still raiding Cornish villages to kidnap inhabitants for the Slave Trade?

**Pardon of S Yves, mid-May. Pam and I had a marvellous fortnight near Treguier a couple of decades ago. It is a remarkable little city with very good seafood and ravishing pastries and a charming cathedral and cloister.


Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

How lovely. How close is this language to Cornish? A lovely haunting tune. https://fonds-saintyves.fr/prier-avec-saint-yves/cantiques-a-saint-yves/pan-eo-hirie-ho-pardon/

Matthew said...

I had a holiday house in the Cotes d'Armor for eleven years and often visited Tréguier, where the head of St Yves is sometimes exposed. I never coincided with the Pardon, but was often in residence at the feast of St Anne, who is venerated all over Brittany. The SSPX Domincanesses have a convent (with school) in the chateau of Kernabat near Guingamp; it was there that I first encountered this splendid hymn -- not in this short version, but in a longer one with twelve verses. https://www.soeurs-christredempteur.catholique.fr/Pour-le-26-Juillet-Sainte-Anne-o-bonne-Mere-cantique

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

What a glorious tune, thank you! - the musical equivalent of a Louis XVI church, one can feel the rough texture of the stone, and see the crisp shadows in fluting and capital.

The survival of these Pardons is joysome, though the clergy always spoil the footage by looking bored and chatting in procession in their polyester albs. A shame that the most important, holy, parts, are thus diminished, and all effort goes into the procession and wonderful costumes and litters, but this risks them become just folklore. Hopefully your SSPX Sisters maintain the balance.

Nearby, at Kergoat, is another which survives - one loves this 19th century painting of it. It sums up all that is good about popular devotion - piety, community, joy. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1c/Le_pardon_de_Kergoat_en_Qu%C3%A9m%C3%A9n%C3%A9ven_en_1891_Jules_No%C3%ABl.JPG/1600px-Le_pardon_de_Kergoat_en_Qu%C3%A9m%C3%A9n%C3%A9ven_en_1891_Jules_No%C3%ABl.JPG?20121016162625

Grant Milburn said...

A lovely haunting tune indeed. “D major, three-quarter time,” I said to myself, looking at the sheet music provided. “That should sound good on my violin.” It did.

Bracing words too:

War zísteraat, siwazh, ec’h a feiz Breizh-Izel :
Ne zoujer ken da Zoue na d’E lezenn santel,
Adlârit c’hoazh d’ho proiz, o ma sant benniget,
Eo ret sentiñ ouzh Doue ‘vit kaout evurusted.

Lârit dezhe kerzhet eeun ‘trezek ar baradoz
Ha bezañ gwír Gristenien evel o Zadoù kozh.
O ! Neuze ni a welo o tistreiñ en hon touez
Ar peoc’h hag al lealded ha gante levenez.

Elle va en s’affaiblissant, hélas, la foi en Bretagne :
On ne respecte plus Dieu ni sa Sainte Loi,
Redites encore à vos compatriotes, ô mon saint béni,
Qu`il faut obéir à Dieu pour avoir du bonheur.

Dites-leur de marcher droit vers le Paradis
Et d’être de vrais chrétiens comme leurs ancêtres.
Oh ! Alors nous verrons revenir parmi nous
La paix et la loyauté et avec elles la joie.

I don’t know any Cornish or Breton but I looked up the Swadesh list for the Celtic languages:


The two languages seem to be fairly close, at least as far as basic vocabulary goes. I don’t know if they are still mutually intelligible. Fans of Asterix will recognise the Breton/Cornish for long (#28) and stone (#156).

Matthew said...

Josephus: Glad to see the tradition being kept up.
I rarely crossed into Finisterre, but the combination of Holy Mass & cochon grillé sounds attractive!

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

Dear Matthew - and all for 13 Euros, with Frites AND Gateau Breton! Why does anyone live in England?! And your neighbour will have brought some decent wine or cider to share!

The indispensable presence of convivial meals as part of French pilgrimages is one of the things which underlines how Catholic she still is, and helps make them such a rewarding spiritual experience. Few English who have sampled would disagree, I think.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

Actually, if they were doctoral graduates, they were indeed addressed as "Doctor".


Matthew said...

Dear Josephus, Despite the bored-looking clerics in their polyester albs. At this point I should come clean and admit to being Orthodox, only attending Catholic services when none of my own communion were conveniently available. However, nearly every Sunday Liturgy in the Orthodox parishes of Brittany is followed by an agape meal, people bringing wonderful food and wine flowing freely.....