Monday, 28 December 2015

Who the Feoc was St. Maeoc?

Who was Saint Maeoc? [a.k.a. Fiacc, Méoc, Maëc, Maeoc, Maioc, Mieux, Mayeux, Meheuc, Feoc, Veoc, Mig/Mic, Vio]
Breton legends tell the story of Saint Fiacc, Archbishop of Armagh and a contemporary of Saint Patrick, who fled the troubles in 5th century Ireland. He landed first in Cornwall where he founded a church:
In Cornwall it is not entirely clear if Feock was a man or a woman. The registers suggest a female saint but the stained glass windows at Feock picture the patron saint in a priest’s robes:
"In the glass Windows [of Feock church] is the figure of a man in priest's robes, with a radiated or shining circle about his head and face, and under his feet written S. Feock; beneath whom also in glass were painted kneeling and bending forward, by way of adoration, the figures of a man and woman, and behind them several children'. [Hals (1750) 'History of Cornwall' ]
He sailed across the Channel on a rock and landed at Penmarc’h. Part of this rock is preserved at the chapel at Tréguennec, a little further up the coast; it has a hollow where Fiacc (or Saint Vio as he is called here) might have rested his head. Pilgrims place their heads here in the hope of being cured of fever. Lanvéoc, where Fiacc founded his monastery, is on the Crozon peninsula on the other side of the Bay.
In Brittany the Feoc(k) mutates to Meoc or Veoc and suddenly a whole host of Breton place names attach themselves to this saint.
He was a hermit at Coëtmieux (Meoc’s Wood): ancient ruins (discovered when the presbytery was being built) suggest that he may have founded an abbey here. The parish church was built over his tomb - he died in 540 A.D -  and his relics were preserved there until the 17th century in a pine chest under the altar inscribed with his name. His actual home may have been at L'Etieux (Lez-Ty-Mieu) in the south of the commune.
A monastery appears in the records at Trémeheuc (35) and a chapel at Plumieux (22). At least eight communes in Brittany bear his name [Coëtmieux, Plumieux, Plémy, Saint-Mayeux (22); Guimaëc, Lanvéoc, Saint-Nic, Trémeheuc (35)].

The problem is that it is all legend. Fiacc or Fiacre appear as names for a handful of other Irish saints (mostly , but not all, male). It is not clear that the inscriptions in the north and east match the stories emanating from the southwest. In fact, Feock might be a catch-all for a number of different saints parading across the landscape of the Celtic world.

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