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Saint Winwaloe (in French, Saint Guénolé or Guennolé; Latin, Winwallus or Winwaloeus) (died 3 March 532) was the founder and first Abbot of Landévennec Abbeymarker, literally Lann of Venec, or Monastery of Winwaloe. It was just south of Brestmarker in Brittany, now part of Francemarker.

Life

St Winwaloe's Church, Gunwalloe
Winwaloe was the son of Fracan, a prince of Dumnonia, and his wife, Gwen Teirbron (or 'Gwen the Triple-Breasted'), who had fled to Brittany to avoid the plague. He was born about 460, apparently at Plouguin, near Saint-Pabu, where his supposed place of birth, a feudal hillock, can still be seen. Winaloe grew up in Ploufragan near Saint-Brieuc with his brothers, Wethnoc and Jacut. They were later joined by a sister, Saint Creirwe. He was educated by Saint Budoc on the Île Lavret, in the Bréhat archipelago, near Paimpol.

As a young man, it is said that Winwaloe conceived a wish to visit Irelandmarker to see the remains of Saint Patrick, who had just died. However, the saint appeared to him in a dream to say that it would be better to remain in Brittany and found an abbey. So, with eleven of Budoc's other disciples, he set up a small monastery on the island of Tibidymarker, at the mouth of the River Faou. However, it was so inhospitable that after three years, he miraculously opened a passage through the sea to found another abbey on the opposite bank of the Landévennec estuary. The saint appears in the story of the mythical sunken city of Ys, in which the legendary King Gradlon of Cornuaille is his patron. Winwaloe died at his monastery on 3 March 532.

Veneration

Winwaloe was venerated as a saint at Landévennec until Viking invasions in 914 forced the monks to flee, with his body, to Château-du-Loirmarker and then Montreuil-sur-Mermarker. His relics were often taken on procession through the town. Winwaloe's shrine was destroyed during the French Revolution in 1793. He apparently acquired a priapic reputation through confusion of his name with the word, gignere (Fr. engendrer, 'to beget') and was thus a patron of fertility as one of the phallic saints.

In his Cornish homelandmarker, Winwaloe is the patron of the churches at Tremaine, St. Wynwallow's Church, Landewednackmarker and Gunwalloemarker, as well as East Portlemouthmarker in Devonmarker and two lost chapels in Walesmarker. The churches of St Twynnells, near Pembroke, Pembrokeshiremarker and Wonastowmarker, Monmouthshire may have been originally dedicated to him. They were probably founded by his successor at Landévennec, Saint Guenäel, who certainly made trips to Britainmarker. Exetermarker, Glastonburymarker, Abingdonmarker and Walthammarker held small relics. He was also popular in East Angliamarker where the abbey at Montreuil-sur-Mer had a daughter house.

References

  1. Vita Sancti Wingualoei (9th century) in Gilbert H. Doble's The Saints of Cornwall
  2. The Minor Themes
  3. Bowen, E. G. (1969) Saints, Seaways and Settlements. Cardiff: University of Wales Press ISBN 0-7083-0650-0 (2nd ed. 1977), p. 189

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