St. Mawes, Abbot
(Maws, Maudetus, Maudez),
Died 6th century. The lives of the 6th century Irish saints frequently
contain startling elements, and that of Saint Mawes is no exception.
Even his birth was remarkable. His mother was called Azenor and lived
in Brittany. One day she was thrown into the sea near Brest, with only
a barrel for a boat. There Mawes was born. Mother and son stayed in
the cask for five months, till they were washed up alive on the coast of
(This is the same birth story as
Saint Budoc (Beuzec; f.d. December 8).
Budoc's name is associated with Mawes, no doubt they were both
missionary monks of Welsh origin, who founded monasteries in Cornwall
and Brittany, perhaps at Dol.)
He moved from Ireland as an adult to live as a hermit near Falmouth in
Cornwall, thus founding a fishing village of which he is the patron.
Then, in the days of King Childbert I, Saint Mawes decided to return to
the land of his mother. On his way to Brittany, he visited Devon and
Cornwall, preaching outdoors and founding a town on the River Fal named
Then he and his followers sailed for Brittany. Landing on an island
just off the coast of France near Leon, Ile Modez (Maudez), the saint
showed his skill by clearing it of vermin, setting fire to the dried
vegetation to do this. He also gained a reputation as a fine teacher.
Many churches in the region are dedicated to him--testifying to his
influence and missionary zeal.
One reason for Saint Mawe's return to Brittany is said to have been to
escape yellow fever in Ireland. He subsequently became famed for his
ability to cure many kinds of sickness. After his death, the earth
under which he was buried was often taken away, mixed with water and
used as medicine.
The saint eventually established a monastic community on Saint Maudez
Island. One day the last fire on the island was
accidentally extinguished. Mawes sent a serving boy at low tide to
cross to the mainland and bring back a flame. As the boy set off back,
the tide came in. The waves rose higher and higher, threatening to
engulf the flame; but the boy stood on a rock,
prayed to Saint Mawes, and discovered the rock rising miraculously so
that it never sank beneath the sea. When the tide went out again, the
flame was successfully transported to Saint Maudez
In art Saint Mawes is portrayed as a schoolmaster (according to Leland).
He is venerated at Falmouth and in Brittany
(Roeder), where 60 churches
and chapels are named after him. The relics of Saint Mawes are
venerated at Quimper, Treguier, Lesneven, and Bourges (which claims his
body). He is invoked against headache, worms, and snake bite
Troparion of St Mawes
Despite thy royal birth thou didst embrace the monastic life in infancy,
O Father Mawes, boast of ascetics and banisher of snakes.
As we are blessed to have thy precious relics with us to this day,
pray O Saint,
that we may be worthy of Christ's mercy and that our souls may be saved.
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content © 2008, Ambrose Mooney
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Page last updated: 2 January 2009
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