Monday, 28 December 2015

Why did Saint Melar lose his head?

Saint Melar (Meloir, Melior, Melor, Melorius, Mylor) was a 6th century saint and martyr. His name appears in several place names across Brittany [Ploumilliau, Saint-Meloir-des-Bois (22); Confort-Meilars (29); Saint-Méloir-des-Ondes (35); Pluméliau (56)] and in Cornwall at Mylor and Linkinhorne. 

His story is a fabulous one.
Holy Well (Saint Melar) - Linkinhorne, Cornwall

King Budoc I of Cornouaille left two sons, Riwal and Meliau. Riwal stabbed Meliau in order to grab his land and titles. In other representations Miliau is shown as a cephalore (holding his own after decapitation). Melar, Meliau’s only son, would have been murdered too but for the intervention of chiefs. 
Saint Meliau following his beheading by Riwal (Gwimiliau Church)
Instead Riwal satisfied himself with cutting off Melor’s right hand and left foot (because Celtic laws barred royal succession for those with such disabilities). 
Statue of Saint Melar (Plonivel)
Melor’s servants had a silver hand and a brass foot cast for the young prince who was then sent off to Saint Corentin at Quimper for safekeeping. Stories of miracles, including conjuring a spring out of nowhere with a stone and a catapault (at Confort-Meilars, 29), soon reached Riwal who arranged for Melor to be disposed of once and for all by Cerialtan, Melar's foster father in Quimper. The king promised him as much land as he could see from the summit of Mount Frugy if he killed the boy. 
View of Quimper from Mont Frugy
Cerialtan’s wife heard of the plot and ran off with the child to King Conomor and Melor’s aunt (a daughter of King Budoc I) in Castle Beuzit (near Plestin-les-Grèves, 22). Cerialtan managed to creep into the Melar’s room late at night, cut off Melor’s head as he slept and ran for the hills clutching the severed head as he ran. When he reached Kerlean (near Carhaix) he was exhuausted and desperate.  
Saint Melar loses his head (Lanmeur)
Dying of thirst he screamed for water at which point Melor’s severed head told him to drive a stake into the ground. When Ceialtan did this a spring appeared and plants and trees started to grow. 

When reached the palace he asked Riwal for the reward for his crime. The prince cut out his eyes and took him to the top of Mount Frugy and told him to take as much land as he could see. 
Statue of Saint Melar (Lanmeur)
St. Melor's body was buried at Lanmeur where a church was built around his shrine. Rumour has it, however, that the relics were sent to Amesbury Abbey in Wiltshire in the 10th century, when the churches were being ransacked by Vikings. Melor's feast day is 1st October.
Church of Sts Mary and Melor, Amesbury (Wiltshire, England)
All in all a very fine myth for a very popular saint.


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