Died 576; feast in Cornwall and Wales is March 9. King Constantine of
Cornwall is reputed to have been married to the daughter of the king of
Brittany and to have led a life full of vice and greed until he was led
to conversion by
(f.d. June 4).
Upon the death of his
wife, he is said to have ceded his throne to his son in order to become
a penitent monk at St. Mochuda Monastery at Rahan, Ireland. He
performed menial tasks at the monastery, then studied for the priesthood
and was ordained. Constantine became a missionary to the Picts in
Scotland under Saint Columba and then Saint Kentigern, preached in
Galloway, and founded and became abbot of a monastery at Govan near the
River Clyde. In his old age, on his way to Kintyre, he was attacked by
pirates who cut off his right arm, and he bled to death. He is regarded
as Scotland's first martyr. There are two places in Cornwall called
Constantine: one on the Helford River and the other near Padstow. The
church on the first site was the larger and survived as a monastery
until the 11th century. He was also patron of the Devon churches of
Milton Abbot and Dunsford
Constantine was a king of Cornwall, the son of Padeon, whose conversion
probably dates from a confrontation with St. Petroc who was sheltering a
stag which had taken refuge with him from Constantine's huntsmen.
Constantine married a princess from Brittany who died shortly after the
marriage and the King was so desolated that he left his kingdom and
sought sanctuary, first at S. David's monastery at Menevia and then in
Ireland at Rathin, made famous by St. Carthage and Mochuda. He arrived
at Rathin unannounced and was set to work in the granary, grinding corn
in a stone quern. One day he was heard by one of the monks laughing and
saying to himself, "Is this really Constantine, King of Cornwall, who
wore a helmet and bore a shield, working this handmill? It is the same,
and yet it is not".
This conversation was reported to the abbot who took him into the
community and after a while he was ordained priest. He had spent seven
years at the abbey before he was recognised and by now he was quite an
old man, but he desired to visit Iona and set off with the blessing of
the abbot. St. Columba received him kindly and sent him on to Sr.
Kentigern, whom he may have met when he was at Menevia. While visiting
Glasgow he stayed for some time with St. Mirren at Paisley and the two
became great friends so that Constantine decided to build himself a
monastery nearby at Govan by the river. It is interesting that the
ruined church of St. Constantine, on the shore of the Bay that bears his
name, has the parish of St Merryn adjoining it and the font in St
Merryn's Church comes from St Constantine's.
After St. Constantine had founded his monastery at Govan he still felt
impelled to preach the Faith of Christ to the heathen and he went to
Kintyre with a party of his monks. There, by Campbeltown Loch a party of
robbers came upon him and hacked him and his one attendant to pieces.
The ruins of a church at Kilchouslan is supposed to mark the spot where
the first of the martyrs of Scotland was attacked and left to die,
bleeding to death from a severed arm. His brethren found him and
received his blessing before he died. They took his body back to Govan
and buried him in the church that has his name. His sarcophagus was
discovered in 1855 and has been restored to the church which keeps his
festival on March 11th
(Baring-Gould & Fisher
Troparion of St Constantine
Grieving at the loss of thy young spouse,
thou didst renounce the world, O Martyr Constantine,
but seeing thy humility God called thee to
leave thy solitude and serve Him as a priest.
Following thy example,
we pray for grace to see that we must serve God as He wills
and not as we desire,
that we may be found worthy of His great mercy.
Kontakion of St Constantine
Thou wast born to be King of Cornwall,
O Martyr Constantine,
could have foreseen that thou wouldst become the first hieromartyr of
As we sing thy praises, O Saint,
we acknowledge the folly of
preferring human plans to the will of our God.